The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

Number of vehicles skyrockets over 19 years while number of accidents remains stable

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 16 June 2019, 08:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

The number of cars on the road has skyrocketed over the past 19 years, yet the number of traffic accidents has remained stable.

Publicly available statistics reveal that, back in the year 2000, there were 246,825 licensed motor vehicles in the country – a number that has  shot up to 387,775 in 2019. This is obviously due to the rise in population.

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In 2006, Malta’s population stood at 405,616. This rose to 475,701 in 2017. However, the prevalence of car use is clearly showing in the statistics. In 2005 there were 672 vehicles per 1,000 people. In 2017, this had risen to 782 vehicles per 1,000 – roughly 100 more vehicles per 1,000 people.

Given this dramatic  increase, one would immediately think that the number of reported road accidents would have also increased, but this has not been the case. The number of reported accidents in 2002 was 14,062 and in 2018 was 14,378. This number did fluctuate between 13,000 and 16,000 during the period, but has more or less remained within that margin.

While the number of reported accidents has remained stable, the number of injuries has not. Indeed, between 2002 and 2009, the number of injuries as a result of vehicle accidents hovered roughly between 1,000 and 1,300 a year. This then skyrocketed to 1,500 around 2011 and even reached 1,800 in 2016. Last year there were 1,675 injuries as a result of vehicle accidents.

This indicates that, while the number of accidents remained stable, the seriousness of these accidents might have risen, given that there have been more injuries as a result of a similar number of accidents.

The majority of registered vehicles currently on the road are passenger vehicles. Of the 387,775 currently licensed vehicles, 301,766 are passenger vehicles (which includes taxis, garage hire and leased vehicles). A total of 52,753 vehicles are listed as commercial vehicles, 27,770 are motorcycles or electronic bicycles and the rest are coaches, buses, mini-buses, road tractors, etc.

Contacted by The Malta Independent on Sunday, traffic consultant and urban planner Bjorn Bonello explained the reason for the increase in traffic accident-related injuries. “The problem with today’s roads is that we are looking for speed, so a quick exit for vehicles from junctions. Roundabouts are intended to slow down traffic, and they are the most effective traffic-management measure known. If they are well-designed, they will deliver the results.

“At some junctions, the size of roundabouts has been reduced: they are now being built using a mathematical model. Things such as deflection – where the car is not able to continue straight on due to a roundabout – are taken into consideration. As an example, take the roundabout near the PAMA building that leads to Naxxar, Lija and Mosta. Originally, this roundabout was bigger. Drivers of vehicles coming from Birkirkara heading for Mosta would have had to slow down to allow vehicles on the roundabout to continue and then proceed when there was a gap. Now that the roundabout has been reduced in size to remove the deflection, vehicles can just drive straight through it and those coming from Naxxar and turning towards Mosta, will have to slow down.”

Bonello explained that, as a result of these measures and also the widening of roads, the same number of vehicles are on the road but they have a larger area in which to drive. So queues are shorter and the speed from one junction to the next has increased. There is a difference between hitting a vehicle at 10kph and hitting one at 30kph: the greater the speed, the more injuries, he explained.

With regard to the widening of roads, he said that there has not been much serious provision for cyclists, and the danger to them has increased.

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