Driving on our roads
Many Maltese drivers feel free to apply their own set of rules to driving that differ from the ones followed by the rest of us or, indeed, in the rest of Europe. No respect to road rules, no courtesy or consideration towards other road users.
Many drivers in Malta follow their own road code. To take an example, the first person who reaches the roundabout has priority. The existence of the stop sign or give way is of no significance. Overtaking is permissible at all times. It is normal for two cars or even three to drive through the lights after they have turned red.
Indicators are almost totally ignored. You can still see drivers with their mobile against their ears, in spite of the fact that the fine for talking on the phone while driving has been upped. It is also acceptable to drive on two lanes at slow speed.
Parking is allowed everywhere – on zebra crossings, bus stops double yellow lines and anywhere in the shade. Taxis and minibuses are exempted from following speed limits and any other aspect of civilised behaviour.
Showing courtesy is a sign of weakness. Never thank a driver for letting you pass. Just look fixedly ahead. There is no need to take any notice of cyclists and people on motorbikes. It is always the cyclist’s and the biker’s fault if you happen to knock them off their bike and seriously injure them.
You may think that I am exaggerating but don’t you think that this is more or less the reality on our roads? There are many cars on the road. With the increasing number of foreign workers the number of cars has shot up. The lack of patience among us Maltese, blatant egoism and our belief that we are always right make for a recipe of dangerous and risky behaviour on the roads – something that is not found in Europe with the exception of some Mediterranean countries.
Traffic wardens are hardly ever to be seen and are not present in sufficient numbers to compensate for the lack of police. Until there is a regular effort by the police to penalise driving contraventions through a system of fines that are given out frequently, the Maltese driver will keep evading the law.
With regard to the lack of courtesy, unfortunately this is a Maltese characteristic that needs to change through media education and the schools on how to behave on the road. We Maltese are a friendly people but we are not always civil or respectful. Courtesy needs to be taught at schools, or better still, at home. The lack of courtesy and good manners in the way the Maltese public behaves, as evident in the way we drive, is often shocking.
I was recently in Holland. This is one of three countries in the European Union with safe roads. What distinguishes the Dutch is that as a people they know how to respect others. I observed how considerate they are of others – they do not push or shout. Drive anywhere in Malta and the lack of respect on the streets is embarrassing – drivers weaving in and out of traffic at random without indicating or stopping suddenly in the middle of the street to talk to someone.
In my opinion, road safety depends on the behaviour of the driver. If this is not disciplined and respectful, the dangerous and selfish behaviour of many drivers on the roads in Malta will persist. There needs to be more education for drivers, more training and better police enforcement or we will continue to live in ignorance.