Last Updated on Thursday, 6 April, 2023 at 12:14 pm by Andre Camilleri
Just right after the Christmas recess, on the 13th of January, we were involved in a serious traffic accident. Ironically, it fell on Friday the 13th. Needless to say, I do not believe in these superstitions. Prior to returning home, I was on my way to pick up a letter from Ħamrun. As I drove past Vjal Santa Luċija tunnels, direction to Marsa, I set my indicator on to switch to the outer lane. The road regulations indicated that the speed limit mustn’t exceed 70 km/hour. Indeed, I was strictly following the rules of the road. I looked twice and allowed some time prior to changing lanes once the indicator was on.
In a matter of a split of a second, a black vehicle driving like hell and high lightning, hit the right rear side of my car. The impact forced my former vehicle to hit the outer crash barrier. It lost control and crawled several metres down Vjal Santa Luċija. The momentum and the friction on the crash barrier literally spat the car to the inner lane, hitting another vehicle bumper to bumper. Upon collision, my vehicle slipped to the other side of the road, crashing all the way down the widened pavement. Fortunately, the velocity and momentum of my vehicle were halted after impacting a third party and also hitting the inner crash barrier.
When my vehicle stopped moving someone came knocking on the window. I saw a person, waving his hands. By the looks, he seemed to be quite young in age. The guy was asking us whether we were killed. Obviously, we replied that he almost killed us. Shockingly, he replied that he was not accelerating but cruising at a speed of roughly 120km/130km per hour. When we told him that it is irresponsible driving, he went ballistic. His behaviour turned irrational and surely required special attention and perhaps testing.
Luckily, my vehicle was connected to an eCall system like many other European vehicles on mainland Europe. Essentially, the eCall is a pan-European in-vehicle system for contacting the emergency services in the event of a serious road accident. In turn, my mobile phone locked. It was bleeping an SOS emergency, showing the exact location of my vehicle. A few seconds later, I received a call from the Maltese police. Politely, an officer asked me if we were injured and whether we needed emergency assistance, including the service of an ambulance. Indeed, we requested an ambulance. By the time the ambulance arrived, two police officers appeared at the scene of the accident.
A police officer told me that a sketch of the accident cannot be drafted because the vehicles were moved. Obviously, my vehicle was not moved. Even if I wanted to move it, there were no front wheels left after the accident and the chassis was badly altered. However, the person initiating the accident, intentionally or unintentionally, moved his vehicle. Meanwhile, another police officer was holding a rexine clipboard file, and asked us to recount what happened.
Obviously, we complied and expanded further on other matters that cannot be disclosed publicly, at least, for now. After taking our statements the police officer asked us to sign, even though we were still under shock. Apparently, once the statements are taken, the police officers at the main police station are required to input the handwritten information in their computer system. Obviously, there is a time lag. And I take it that for legibility purposes the same officer taking the statement at the scene of the accident, generally inputs the information in the computer system. Otherwise, errors and discrepancies are created, especially if the officer on duty is dealing with multiple road accidents.
Certainly, the system cannot be perfect. However, the process is entirely inconsistent. Frankly, we must take stock of the situation though to start improving our capacity building and training. In my case, the police report requested the need to change some street furniture to cover for the damaged crash barriers, both from where the accident started as well as where it stopped. The skid marks where all visible on the ground. Therefore, a proper approximate sketch of the accident could still be taken. Undoubtedly, important information that is omitted from a police report, is tantamount to injustices.
After the police report is inputted in the computer system, it is then disseminated to the insurance companies concerned, once the latter request it. Obviously, insurance companies would then assess the report on the premise of what was written, to then draw a conclusion on who must bear the responsibility. To put things into context, what I am writing here, it is normally summarised in a subsequent brief police report. However, I am unsure whether photos can be recorded in the police’s traffic reporting system. Certainly, lack of recorded evidence might enable reckless drivers to escape justice, because the system is too simplified.
To give you some context, in Belgium the maximum speed on a highway is 120km/hr. If someone exceeds this speed, and is involved in a traffic accident, they receive a severe fine. In certain cases, the driving license is also revoked depending on the damages and seriousness of the accident. Clearly, if some insurance companies are simply defending their clients, even knowing that their clients are in the wrong, and falling under very high-risk categories, then they are to blame for reckless drivers on the Maltese roads. A person driving recklessly at 120/130km/hour on a road with an allowable maximum speed of 70km/hour must not be insured. The pattern is clear, the age bracket too, and lately the vehicle brand, as well. They must be excluded from the system, just like we Banks are excluding very-high risk sectors falling under Climate and Environmental Risks.
Moreover, insurance companies in the EU generally require all vehicles to be connected to an emergency response unit. The system must be activated prior to purchasing an insurance product. Not sure what is happening here in Malta. Supposedly, we are an EU member state. Surely, insurance companies in Malta must not enable reckless drivers on the Maltese roads. It is morally wrong to allow irresponsible drivers to go unpunished and subsequently impose higher insurance risk premia on responsible drivers. Unjustly, the latter are subsidising a flawed system.
Clearly, in a situation where the population increased, and the number of vehicles on the Maltese roads grew exponentially, insurance companies have a bigger role to play. They must charge and impose unequal high-risk premia on irresponsible drivers. Else they must exclude them from their policies. And the assessment of a major road accident mustn’t be simplified to the point of absurdity!
Else, simply change the system.