The Malta Insurance Association is very concerned at the alarming increase in road accidents and traffic injuries or fatalities which have taken place in recent months. In 2016 we have already experienced 11 fatalities, while in the first 3 months of the year the number of persons injured in traffic accidents increased by 29% over the same period last year. The motor insurers who are members of our Association are exposed on a daily basis to the personal tragedies and economic losses that are caused by traffic accidents. We are indeed very saddened by the loss of life and injuries sustained by many and the MIA wishes to reach out to all those families who have suffered from such loss of life and to those whose normality in life has been interrupted as a result of injuries sustained from a traffic accident.
As motor insurers, our members feel the need to contribute to the ongoing national debate on all the issues relating to traffic, and they are more than willing to play their part in helping to tackle these issues. As active members of the Malta Road Safety Council, launched by Transport Malta in 2015, we continue to emphasize the importance of road safety in Malta through the implementation of practical solutions, even if, in certain instances, these solutions come at a considerable cost to Insurance Companies themselves.
While the MIA commends the many initiatives taken by Transport Malta as well as the essential and important work carried out by the Malta Police on our roads, it is increasingly evident to us that more effective enforcement of traffic rules and regulations has become absolutely necessary.
Whilst the MIA supports the idea of charging harsher fines for offences such as drink-driving, and texting while driving, it believes that this in itself is not enough. The police should not only be well resourced and equipped to be able to enforce the rules, but there may also be the need for legislative changes to give them more effective powers. This is especially true in the case drink-driving, which in many cases is suspected to have been the cause of serious accidents, but where very often there is lack of concrete evidence of this as no alcohol test would have been carried out. The MIA has already taken concrete steps in this area by supporting the Malta Police, through its donation of 15 breathalyzer kits in December 2015. What the MIA expects now is that these are put into more regular and frequent use. The MIA believes that the time has come for the police to also have the power to carry out random tests on motorists, and that such a test becomes mandatory following all serious accidents. It is evident that the deterrent value of roadside testing does not currently exist, as many motorists continue to drink alcohol even when they know they will be driving since they perceive that the risk of being caught, or of having an accident, is very low. Unless concrete action is taken to tackle this serious problem, we will unfortunately continue to experience more loss of life and limb as a result of alcohol abuse.
The upkeep of vehicles, and the quality of repairs that follow damage caused in an accident, are also of great relevance and importance to motor insurers, particularly as modern cars have become more and more advanced. Insurers are very concerned that lack of up to date knowledge, the adoption of incorrect repair practices, or the lack of specialized tools and equipment, can seriously compromise the safety features of vehicles designed to reduce the risk of injury following an accident. This is one of the reasons why a number of insures have embarked on the Motor Insurance Repair Efficiency project or ‘MIRE’. A major initiative of MIRE is to have repairers inspected and classified using international standards so that vehicle owners are well informed when making their choice of repairer. MIRE has in fact engaged the services of CESVIMAP, a Spanish company that operates worldwide and which is specialized and highly experienced in this area. Already 68 repairers, who have voluntarily joined the QVR (Quality Vehicle Repairs) Scheme, have been inspected and are currently being given recommendations as to how to improve their facilities and have been classified using a star rating system. MIRE will be shortly issuing more detailed information to the public about this scheme especially once garage facilities around Malta start obtaining and displaying their star ratings.
Finally we wish to appeal to all motorists to be more aware of the risks that irresponsible driving can bring. Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians all need to be more alert than ever as the probability of accidents increases with every additional vehicle that uses our roads. They have to make an extra effort to understand how much more important it has become to follow rules and regulations and to be extra vigilant to make up for the mistakes and actions of other road users. They must remember that while insurance can go a long way in tackling the financial consequences of an accident, it cannot erase the trauma of having been responsible for causing the death or serious injury of another human being, not to mention all the hassle and inconvenience that always results in such cases, even minor ones. All of us need to play our part on trying to make our roads safer and easier to use.
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