Hon. Aaron Farrugia,
Dr Ray Gatt,
Dr Gordon Caruana Dingli,
Mr Pierre Vella,
Distinguished keynote speakers and participants,
It is my pleasure to host you in Verdala Palace for such an important and timely conference on promoting road safety and a Vision Zero for Malta. I thank Doctors for Road Safety for gathering us here today and for bringing together a diverse group of professionals, all focusing on one honourable aim, that is: saying no more to preventable roadside deaths!
Road traffic accidents continue to be a source of mortality and serious injury for millions of people across the world. Recent data from the local National Statistics Office sadly highlighted that the number of reported traffic accidents in Malta during the third quarter of 2022 reached 4,062, up by 2.1 per cent over the figures of 2021.
As we have been horrendously witnessing in the past weeks, despite Malta’s short distances, fatal traffic accidents continue to be an almost daily occurrence. When looking at statistics, it is more shocking to learn that certain vulnerable groups, such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, continue to carry the heaviest burden of death and grievous bodily injury. Local data also highlights an alarming increase in the number of hit and run accidents.
These figures are a terrible stain on our nation and one which should be urgently addressed!
Whilst recognising that all those sharing the road have a number of responsibilities and all have the potential to use roads hazardously, as a nation we need to recognise the mounting urgency of developing safer roads and driving attitudes for all. It is therefore welcoming to observe improvements in road engineering and the development of an infrastructure which promotes safer roads. It is also very encouraging to learn of the work carried out by local organizations such as Doctors for Road Safety, and others, aimed at promoting increased awareness and educational outreach.
Nonetheless, it is evident that efforts in the past years have not been enough to eradicate fatal accidents in Malta, and that, much more needs to be done.
As you will be delving into the discussion of promoting Vision Zero, I am pleased to note your distinguished and multidisciplinary portfolios. These will be of pivotal importance to ensure that the discussion is comprehensive and addresses multiple aspects linked with road safety. Furthermore, I strongly believe that dialogue, and cooperation between different like-minded partners remains crucial to advance positive long-term change. Therefore, dialogue with the Road Safety Council, civil society organisations, and line Ministries involved in enforcement, infrastructural works, and road safety, remains an important component in our united call against all traffic fatalities, and sever injuries.
A collaborative approach is at the core of a Vision Zero philosophy to road safety. In fact, improved roadway environments, educational outreach addressing behaviours, and systems of rapid intervention on site are fundamental to the creation of safer roads.
I will turn once more my attention now to the importance of changing present and long-held driving attitudes of might is right, or in this case, speed is right. We need to impart in our drivers the responsibility to be part of the culture change. It is unconceivable how in the year 2022 we still observe a complete disregard for car signalling, and road markings. Moreover, the increased use of devices, such as that of mobile phones while driving, further increases the potential for accidents and fatalities.
All of this is preventable!
We just need to take the lead and refrain from endangering ourselves and the lives of others by a distracted mind or selfish attitudes.
As a country, with limited geographical space and highly densely populated towns, we should explore alternatives to lessen the use and concentration of dangerous vehicles on our roads. By discussing a more sustainable approach to transportation means in Malta, whilst taking into consideration the different financial and mobility capabilities of the local population, we have an opportunity to promote a holistic approach and a broader perspective to road safety. Without diminishing the role of safe infrastructure, responsible decisions, and enforcement, alternative means of transportation would in no small part contribute to alleviate this ever-increasing wave of cars invading our streets on a daily basis.
In conclusion, I once more congratulate the Doctors for Road Safety for taking the lead on this very important topic and for gathering today an esteemed panel of experts hailing from different countries.
I wish you all a fruitful discussion.
Thank you for listening.