For once there is welcome news that road traffic fatalities in the past 12 months have fallen but 37 lives lost still boils down to three people a month being killed on the roads in 2022, a good number of which may have been preventable.
According to assistant traffic director Haris Evripidou, the lowest previous death toll, recorded in 2012, stood at 44 but there are always ‘fluke’ years when road deaths are lower only to rise again the following year.
What is needed is a steady decline to prove that policies and actions on road safety are in fact working.
Evripidou said the traffic department, confirmed by police data, clearly attributed the reduction to the installation of traffic cameras, because police had not done anything differently last year in terms of general actions on road safety.
The mere fact of drivers knowing they can be caught on camera at any moment, led to greater compliance with traffic rules, particularly to obeying speed limits, he said.
This is all well and good but clearly cameras can only do so much if indeed the 2022 reduction came about as a result of their installation.
Of the total number of people who did die on the roads, ten were car drivers, four were passengers, nine were motorcycle drivers, two were motorcycle passengers, four were cyclists, six were pedestrians and one was an electric scooter rider.
What is worrying here is that of the 14 car fatalities – drivers and passengers – only four were wearing seat belts.
Of the 12 motorcycle victims, only five were wearing helmets. Half of these victims, six out of 12, were under 25 years old.
These figures tell another story. They show that the countless police and educational campaigns over the years have not had a huge impact on behavioural change on the island’s roads.
Some of the car and motorcycle deaths were probably caused by other drivers who escaped unscathed, and while there is no guarantee their victims would have survived in every instance, wearing a seat belt or a helmet might have made a difference.
It is a sad reflection on the mentality of drivers in general that the achievement of reducing road fatalities, after decades of police work and educational campaigns, still only came from the barrel of a gun if the police assessment on camera use turns out to be valid.
There is a world of difference in sticking to the rules due to a fear of being caught on camera and abiding by traffic laws because it’s the right thing to do for everyone’s safety.
It is also important that police not become complacent that the cameras will do their job for them. There is clearly still a lot of actual police work to be done.
As the cameras have not been in place for long, this time next year should produce more clarity as to the effectiveness of camera use on overall fatalities so let’s hope 2022 was not another one of those fluke years.