The Malta Independent 3 February 2023, Friday
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You’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic

Sunday, 4 December 2022, 07:01 Last update: about 3 months ago

Alexander Mangion

The situation on our roads seems to get worse by the day. It is not something which is shared by one side of the political debate or another – it is a fact which we have all grown to accept, some of us more openly than others. Fatal accidents on the road are at an all time high. The problem now is that its seems that we are getting used to this reality, and accepting it as a fact of life. This, obviously, is ludicrous.

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Our country’s love affair with the four wheels appears to know no limits, as every year we continue to place more and more cars on our roads. The National Statistics Office said that in the second quarter of this year, there was an increase of more than 4,500 cars on the roads when compared to the same period of last year.

This means, we placed 50 new cars every day during this period. Every day. This is far from sustainable by any degree. Even simply envisaging 50 cars lined up in front of each other, should be enough to realise the magnitude of the issue. Imagining this small traffic jam, being added to our roads on the daily ought to be enough to realise that we need to do something about it.

Our streets are getting clogged at most times during the day. Commuting in the morning means that people need to get out of the house at least an hour before their intended time, leading to loss of productivity, and quite frankly loss of quality of life.

Frustration on the roads is spectecular, often manifesting itself in acts of despicable road rage and unacceptable behaviour. In many cases, we have lost our ability of being decent drivers, respecting each other on the roads. Indicating has become a thing of the past, stop signs blatantly ignored, with certain junctions closley resembling a post-apocalyptic setting at best.

We are all driving bigger, faster, flashier vehicles, however our conduct on the roads has taken a severe downturn. It is not uncommon that drivers make use of their mobile phones on the wheel, putting themselves and other drivers in danger. Might is right on Malta’s roads. The road code in fact takes a hiatus when a large lorry is around. You could have right of way, but we all know how that story is going to end.

While all this is immensely frustrating, there is naturally a much more worrying side to it. Too often, our lackluster attention on the roads is leading to fatalities. Stupid loss of life which we could so easily avoid.

Moreover, the increasing number of cars on our roads is also contributing to climbing levels of CO2 emissions. Before the pandemic, Malta had the second highest increase, in the EU,  in carbon dioxide emissions, registering an increase of 6.7 per cent. This was doubly worrying as across Europe countries managed to decrease their emissions by an average of 2.5%. While this increase cannot be attributed completely to our cars, it is safe to assume that transport plays a great part in it.

Poor air quality, especially in urban areas, has a direct correlation to our health. According to the European Environment agency, at least 238,000 people died prematurely in the EU in 2020 due to exposure to excessive pollution.

Concurrently, in Malta, while the number of electric and hybrid vehicles has increased, numbers remain below 10,000.  In fact, Electric vehicles account for just 2.3% of licensed vehicles in Malta. The take-up of cleaner cars is on the rise, but more could be done to entice more people to choose this option.

Naturally this is not the only solution. Malta’s roads need a concerted multi-disciplinary approach which provides long term solutions. 

Also, we need to understand that every morning, we are not just stuck in traffic – we are traffic. We need to wean ourselves away from our cars, towards more sustainable and efficient modes of transportation – and this requires a national shift in mentality.

Finally, with the festive season upon us, lets be more considerate towards each other and be careful when behind the wheel. And most importantly, lets make sure to be fit to drive.

 

Alexander Mangion is deputy mayor in Attard

 

 

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