A draft bill will go through its first reading in parliament tonight that is aimed towards making Malta’s roads safer for both drivers and pedestrians. Among the proposed changes, that would need to go through a parliamentary debate before being made law, is that those individuals who are paid to drive passengers – such as taxi drivers and bus drivers – have an alcohol limit of zero.
Wardens will be empowered to breathalyse drivers who they believe have had a few too many drinks. Should the breathalyser results show that the driver has exceeded the threshold, then by law the warden is required to call police officers to the scene.
In addition to this, a point system will be introduced for all drivers, and not just new-drivers who are on probation. The law has been proposed to act as a deterrent against reckless driving that endangers the lives of all, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said while addressing a press conference this evening.
In 2016 alone, a total of 24 people tragically lost their lives in various traffic accidents.
He explained that any points racked up by a driver would disappear after 12 months, reason being that the scope is not for the government to impose draconian laws, but for drivers to be made aware of the consequences of their actions and be deterred from such reckless endangerment.
If a driver repeatedly racks up the maximum limit of points, it would not just be a matter of waiting for 12 months to pass, Dr Bonnici said, but that driver would have to convince the courts to reinstate their license.
Fines for those who drink drive will be harsher. Today the law provides for a fine of €1,200 or three months imprisonment. It has been stepped up to a €1,800 fine or six months prison. Second offences or more will be slapped with a fine that has been raised from 2,300 to 3,000 and six months jail to one year jail.
Courts will be given power to order a probation period of offenders and go to seminar under the individual’s expense
Alcohol limit thresholds have also been proposed to increase. Dr Bonnici said that from having among the most generous thresholds in Europe, Malta would meet the EU average, from 0.8g of alcohol per litre of blood to 0.5g.
Lastly, those found driving without a license or found driving under false number plates will have harsher fines imposed on them than the current ones.
Photograph by Jonathan Borg