Patience, respect, road safety

The third weekend of August brought with it more tragic news – the loss of another precious life. Another family, relatives and friends mourning the sad loss of a life cut short unnecessarily. This can only be another sign that we really need to act fast to stop road fatalities from becoming simply a statistic.

It is never too late to start driving diligently, to make sure we do not take any risks because nobody is watching. Though some accidents are bound to occur, others may be prevented if only through some degree of common sense.

Sadly, though, we are all too familiar with the type of reckless behaviour we encounter daily on our roads.

It takes a certain degree of discipline and commitment to stick to your lane even when most of us are impatient and simply cannot wait in a queue.

Impatience, though, is not restricted to sticking to a single lane, it applies also to the (prohibited) use of a mobile phone while driving. What is so urgent in life that cannot possibly wait a few minutes before that call is taken or a message answered?

A few seconds’ distraction could cost the life of a pedestrian crossing the road.

Distraction is not limited to use of a mobile phone but also includes eating and drinking, smoking, applying make-up and more during driving.

The campaign Eyes On the Road could not have been more appropriate and to the point in this regard.

Blocking the road for ‘quick’ errands is one other form of impatience and arrogance. Our road network is undoubtedly already congested as it is and the space for manoeuvrability is very limited, so blocking the way by simply using the wrong lane means other drivers end up suffering the consequences, longer queues, more congestion and increased impatience.

It’s a vicious circle, which tends to worsen during the summer months as the heat and restlessness become unbearable, in turn giving rise to some irrational behaviour on our roads.

The association I represent has made several calls for more discipline on our roads, better and regular enforcement and stronger sanctions against those who are abusive with their reckless driving and blatant flaunting of the rules.

The association was the first to call for an extension of the penalty points system but, to date, we still await a deadline for its implementation. It has also asked for more regular enforcement and that those involved in serious accidents are subjected to breathalyser tests.

We really need to act fast to stop road fatalities from becoming simply a statistic

The association also encourages extensive use of technology, especially when the presence of the policing authorities is limited. Those who drive abroad would be familiar with the discipline road users exercise and the enforcement the policing authorities apply.

Proper enforcement can only succeed through policing and better use of technology such as cameras.

Infrastructure can also make the difference and, as we have seen with a few minor modifications on our roads, these changes have eased the traffic flow.

If we all do our part, drive patiently in full respect of the rules and other road users, our world would be a much better place and our roads a lot safer place to drive on.

On the other hand, tough sanctions should be applied in the case of repeat offenders who think they are above the law and who recklessly endanger their own life and those of others.

While education plays an essential part, it will not deter abusers who need to be told, in no uncertain terms, that such behaviour is not tolerated and, if need be, they are removed from our roads.

By driving safely, not only are we ensuring safety on our roads but we are also taking a very important step at preserving life and avoiding injuries and fatalities. This is, after all, the purpose why a Road Safety Council has been set up.

By following some basic common sense and the rules of the road, each one of us can certainly make a difference. It is therefore worth remembering the Ten Commandments of Safe Driving:

Don’t drink and drive.

Stick to speed limits.

Avoid possible distractions.

Always wear seat belts, even in the back seat – they save lives.

Follow the rules – use your indicators, stick to the inner lane, give precedence to those using the roundabout and give way where indicated.

Stop signs and amber or red traffic lights mean ‘stop’ and not ‘slow down’

Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.

Take good care of your vehicle, service it regularly and make sure its safety features are not compromised by substandard repairs.

Always ensure good visibility of the road before overtaking, or exiting or entering a side street.

Patience pays – do not take chances, and give space to other road users such as cyclists or motorcycle users.

Safer driving is for the benefit of all. Driving is not a game or a competition, and people’s lives are at stake.

Adrian Galea is director general of the Malta Insurance Association.

As reported on the Times of Malta, Wednesday, August 30, 2017

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