The Malta Independent 22 August 2019, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Traffic accidents - Victims are not just numbers

Saturday, 20 July 2019, 10:25 Last update: about 2 months ago

There was a time when traffic accidents used to be carried on the front page of newspapers. Such events were so rare, especially if there was a death, that they were considered to be the top news of the day and, in an age where social media was non-existent, newspaper editors thought it fit to put these stories on the most prominent page. It was thought that such news attracted buyers and new readers.

It was a time when there was no police communications office, and reporters used to rush to the scene of the accident to pick up morsels of information to give to their readers. When such accidents resulted in fatalities, reporters had the difficult task of finding out the victim’s address and used to go to knock on the door to possibly obtain a photo and some more details. Many times the door remained closed; at other times the reporters were almost manhandled by the distraught family.

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Today, these accidents have become the order of the day. Very few of them, however, end up on the front pages of newspapers. They do only when it is a slow day or the extent of the accident, such as having more than one victim, pushes editors to give it prominence. The police communications office often provides the more important details via email, except for the names of the people involved, but with social media being so present in our lives the names – and the photos – are almost immediately available.

Almost no day passes without some major traffic accident taking place. We are specifically referring to accidents that leave people seriously injured and, in some cases, even dead. Many of these accidents involve motorcyclists. Others involve children, and unfortunately we’ve had our fair share of untimely deaths or serious injuries which give a very different shape to a person’s life from thereon.

Let us remember that victims are not just statistics. They have all left a void in their family, and they are still mourned by their relatives. Let us also remember that victims who have survived but are now no longer fully able have had to change the way they live, while their loved ones had to make the necessary adjustments to cope with the new reality.

Many arguments have been made about road safety. Over the years car manufacturers added features to make the vehicles they produce safer, but cars are driven by humans, and humans make mistakes, and each time an accident takes place there is always someone who makes an error – a slight distraction, a bad calculation, and these days illegal use of mobile phones while driving have all played their part when accidents take place.

We must admit that, as a people, the Maltese are not disciplined, and this does not only pertain to the way we drive. We seem unable to understand how many times we create hazards to ourselves and others while driving (and even the way we park). Most of our roads were not constructed to deal with so many vehicles, thereby increasing the level of the danger we encounter every day. Long traffic jams increase our frustration and pushes many to take that extra risk just to get to the destination intended.

We should all understand that safety should come first and foremost when we are driving. Pedestrians also have their contribution to make in maintaining order and discipline on the roads. Use of pavements, zebra crossings and pelican lights is of paramount importance so as not to add more danger.

It is better to arrive late than end up in a hospital, or a morgue.

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