The Malta Independent 16 July 2020, Thursday

Rise in speeding violations during COVID-19, reduction in reported accidents – Traffic Inspector

Karl Azzopardi Sunday, 31 May 2020, 07:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

There has been a considerable rise in speeding infringements as a result of the reduction of vehicles in our street due to COVID-19, while there was no visible increase in general contraventions issued, Traffic Sector Inspector Nicholas Vella told this newsroom.

The closing down of schools, food and entertainment establishments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the restrictive social distancing measures that were introduced, saw typically bustling streets all over Malta and Gozo become deserted as not many people had much reason to get out of their homes. The reduction of vehicles on the road was so drastic that the Environmental Resource Authority (ERA) reported a noticeable decrease in air pollution.

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The only downside to this was the number of speeding infringements that the Traffic Sector has reported over the course of these past few months of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Fewer cars on the road made room for more speeding infringements

Speaking to The Malta Independent, Traffic Inspector Vella said that the traffic section kept working as usual during this crisis and increased its presence on the roads so that it can better supervise any infringements in relation to traffic regulations, while also being more vigilant in its work.

Surges in speeding violations were reported during the months of April and May. On Easter Sunday alone 64 people were fined for speeding, with one of them caught driving at 185km/h, while another 80 drivers met the same fate at the start of this month.

Vella explained that this is definitely a result of roads becoming freer of traffic during this pandemic, yet, on the plus side, there was no increase in other contraventions like littering or disregard of traffic signs since there were fewer cars on the street.

Asked to give an explanation of what technology is being used to assess instances of speeding infringements, he said that the Traffic Section has four handheld speeding cameras at its disposal that use the latest laser technology to accurately indicate the speed at which a vehicle is moving.

Traffic officials point the camera at the vehicle that they suspect is exceeding legal speed limits. The camera zooms in on the vehicle and takes a video which indicates its speed. Additionally, it has an inbuilt system by which it can take a snapshot of the vehicle’s highest speeding point.

The Traffic Section has been operating this apparatus for the past two years but it used COVID-19 as an opportunity to make more use of them.

 

14 fatal accidents since the start of the year, 7 traffic related

 

The Malta Independent on Sunday also asked if there has been a noticeable increase in the traffic accidents due to the number of traffic fatalities that have been reported since the start of this year.

Up until today, 14 fatalities have been reported by the Police Incident Reporting System (PIRS), 7 of which relate to traffic accidents.

The first of such accidents took place on Saturday 1 February, where a 46-year-old Maltese biker from Mellieћa died at Mistra after being involved in a traffic incident with a moving car. The biker was certified dead on site while the woman driving the other vehicle was taken to hospital due to shock.

On Tuesday 3 March, a man died after he was hit by a car in Marsa. He was a 32-year-old Palestinian who lived in Gżira and was certified dead on scene while the driver was given medical treatment for shock.

A little over a month later, on Sunday 12 April, a motorcyclist died in a crash that took place on the Mrieћel bypass. The victim was a 38-year-old biker from San Ġwann who was riding his motorcycle when he collided with a moving car. He was also pronounced dead at the scene.

The remaining four all took place during the month of May.

On Thursday 7 May a young postwoman died after being involved in a crash in Marsa near the MaltaPost offices. In a statement, the police said the 19-year-old woman was driving a Paxster vehicle belonging to Maltapost which overturned, causing her to be thrown out of it. An ambulance took her to hospital, and the police were later informed that she had succumbed to her injuries.

Soon after, a 51-year-old man from Msida died after he lost control of his motorcycle on the Coast Road, on Monday 11 May. A medical team was called to the scene of the accident, but the man was pronounced dead on site.

Another motorcyclist was also reported dead on site just four days later, Thursday 14 May.  Two bikers where involved in a road accident with two cars. Unfortunately, this resulted in the death a 39-year-old biker from Birkirkara while the other was seriously injured.

Just three days ago (Thursday 28 May), a pillion rider who was seriously injured last Sunday 24 May in a Żebbug crash died in hospital, where she had been on life support. The 32-year-old woman, from Mtarfa, was riding on a bike with another person when a car emerged from a side road and the biker swerved to avoid it.

Traffic Inspector Vella said that according to their statistics, the Traffic Section has actually seen a reduction in traffic accidents reported to the police since March.

The NSO had also reported a reduction of 8.2% in traffic accidents during the first quarter of this year when compared to 2019. Moreover, road traffic casualties decreased by 15% over the same period in 2019.

With regard to the previously listed traffic fatalities, Vella said that as unfortunate as the cases are, they are no different from other traffic accidents that take place under normal circumstances. 

Asked to give some final advice to the public now that the number of cars on the road is starting to increase again after the relaxation of multiple COVID-19 measures, Vella urged the public to keep following traffic regulations, especially now that summer is upon us.

“As the heat starts to intensify, people must try to keep their calm due to the anticipated increase of cars in Malta's streets,” he said.

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