A road traffic accident occurs every 30 minutes on our roads. Every day an average of three people receive medical care as a consequence of being involved in a traffic collision. Speed is at the core of the road safety problem. There is a strong relationship between speed and both the number of crashes and the severity of the consequences of a crash. Studies show that when drivers reduce speed, collisions are less likely. If there is a collision, at lower speeds there will be less serious injury. This is especially true for vulnerable road users children, cyclists and the elderly.Excessive and inappropriate speed is the cause of about a third of the fatal and serious traffic accidents across the European Union. If the number of speeding violations on European roads could be reduced, many lives would be saved.
A 2010 Eurobarometer survey on Road Safety carried out by the European Commission across the 27 Member States of the European Union highlights the growing concern in Malta regarding drivers exceeding speed limits. 89% of Maltese respondents to this survey opined that drivers exceeding speed limits pose a major safety problem in Malta - the fifth highest response rate of this nature behind Cyprus, Bulgaria, Estonia and Italy.
Traffic and speeds are a major concern with vehicles travelling dangerously fast for the type of road often being cited as the main reason that discourages us from more walking or cycling. In the worst cases, people may be prevented from getting to local facilities, shops and school children are driven to school by concerned parents, as a last resort.
Studies carried out both in Malta and abroad indicate that drivers do not usually strictly comply with speed limits. The extent of speeding varies depending on the reasonableness of speed limits, the perceived likelihood of enforcement (and severity of penalties for non-compliance), fuel consumption, the driving context and the drivers own characteristics.
There is no single solution to the problem of excessive and inappropriate speeds. A package of countermeasures is necessary, increasing the effectiveness of each individual measure. Malta, as a Member State of the European Union has a shared responsibility to reduce the number of road deaths - good speed management can contribute to this. Speed management is a consistent method of assessing speeds and speed limits to try to reach a reasonable balance between the many conflicting demands and expectations. Speed management is, however, first and foremost about reducing injuries from road traffic accidents.
The speed management policy intends to provide an integrated, systematic and stepwise framework for reducing road collisions and the injuries resulting from them, helping all road users feel safer and providing a better awareness about effective speed management. The comprehensive approach aims to:
The policy will be a source of information and technical guidance for policy makers, road designers, planners, road safety auditors, accident investigators, enforcement officers and others with an interest in safety and speed management.
A speed limit needs to reflect the safe speed on that particular road, related to road function, traffic composition, and road design characteristics. Furthermore, a speed limit needs to be credible, i.e. it must be logical in the light of the characteristics of the road and the road environment.
The driver must know the actual speed limit, always and everywhere. This can be done either by the use of consistent roadside signing and road markings, or by the use of in-vehicle systems that inform drivers about the speed limit in force. At particular locations low speeds are crucial for safety, for example near schools or homes for the elderly, at pedestrian crossings, at intersections. At these locations, physical speed reducing measures such as speed humps, road narrowings, roundabouts and 30km/h home zones can help to ensure cars maintain a safe speed.
Education, training and information are all essential to the success of a comprehensive speed management policy. Responsibility for speed management does not stop with the public authorities and there are other important stakeholders including the media, insurance companies, school, researchers motoring and other associations, all of which can help promote speed management and greater awareness of road safety.
Enforcement can be both an effective tool and, if approached appropriately can also be a powerful measure contributing directly to the reduction of speeding and traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities that result from speeding. If steps 1 to 3 have been applied, unintentional speed violations will have become an exception. Drivers, who then still exceed the speed limit, do so intentionally. Enforcement by Police and Local Council Wardens will remain necessary to control and punish that group of drivers.
Each of the steps 1 to 4 has to be accompanied by information to drivers on the problem of speed and speeding, what the speed limit system is based on and why, what additional measures have been taken and why, and on the (positive) outcomes of these measures.
In April 2012, a national consultation was launched to gather feedback from stakeholders, interested parties and members of the public. A stakeholder conference was also organised and the policy framework was launched and discussed. All the information related to this consultation and the policy document can be accessed from here.