According to the Royal Gibraltar Police, during the month of October 2016, officers deployed at various locations as part of Operation Roadwatch processed a total 461 road traffic offences!
Amongst the most common offences were:
– 108 motorists reported for speeding;
– 32 motorists reported for the non-wearing of seat-belts;
– 34 motorists reported for operating mobile phones whilst driving;
– 47 motorists reported for contravening traffic lights or signs;
– 16 motorists reported for driving/riding against the flow of traffic.
The ‘big four offences’ (speeding, not using seat-belts, crossing red traffic lights and drunk-driving) account for 75% of road fatalities and according to the independent Brussels-based European Safety Council. Speeding is a primary factor in about one third of fatal collisions.
While we are lucky, in a sense, that in Gibraltar the physical road network does not really enable drivers to drive very fast, there are still a handful of roads often misused by joy-riders and other offenders who put their lives and other people’s lives in danger. Whilst most of the times it is locals who are to blame for such anti-social driving behaviour, a study by the European Commission has found that non-resident drivers account for approximately 5% of road traffic in the EU, but are responsible for 15% of detected speeding offences. In fact, authorities in France say a quarter of all speeding offences are committed by foreign registered cars – rising to almost 50% in the tourist season.
One deterrent for foreign drivers may be the introduction last year of the EU cross-border enforcement directive. The Directive (which must be transposed to member states’ national laws by May 2017), enables cross-border enforcement of speeding offences, not using seat-belts, crossing red traffic lights, drunk-driving, crash helmet use, drug-driving, use of forbidden lanes and drivers using mobile telephones. These rules mean that foreign-registered drivers are no longer able to ignore traffic laws safe in the knowledge that they won’t be penalised when they return home. They are a smart way of deterring people from dangerous driving when they go abroad but will also help member states follow up on traffic offences when drivers put other people’s lives at risk.
Another, more acute problem in Gibraltar is parking offences. According to the RGP, last month alone, 511 fixed penalty notices were issued for a variety of parking infringements. In September, a new team of 19 Parking Management Officers began beefing up the RGP’s presence on Gibraltar’s streets, as part of the Ministry of Transport’s new traffic management scheme. These enthusiastic officers have clamped over 340 vehicles in their first month alone, compared to just 11 clamps in the 20 months prior to September. According to Minister for Traffic & Transport Paul Balban, the reason why there are so many clamps is “it’s the only way we can ensure that an offending vehicle that is not locally registered can pay their dues like any other person”. Minister Balban reassured that “local cars are not clamped or towed away as Fixed Penalty Notices are fixed to the windows”. While there have been some disputes about this claim, especially in relation to Grand Parade, which has become a clamping “hot spot”, it is a lesson to the community as a whole that parking and driving offences should not be tolerated and strict enforcement should be done (whether local or foreign) as it is our lives that are risk.