In the first seven months of this year ten people lost their lives in traffic accidents on the roads of Malaga province and although every loss of life is a tragedy the figure is positive news because it is exactly 50 per cent lower than during the same period last year. The worst month was January, when there were five fatalities, but in March and April there were none. One person was killed in February, two in May, one in June and one in July.
The head of the Traffic Department in Malaga, Trinidad Hernández, says these figures are even better than anticipated under the Strategic Road Safety Plan, which predicted a 40 per cent reduction in the number of fatalities, because between 2004 and 2011 there has been a drop of 68 per cent.
Trinidad Hernández believes the greatly improved figures are due to improved infrastructure, especially the opening of the additional bypass around Malaga city and Las Pedrizas motorway. She also says the driving licence points system, the radar speed cameras and a change in the Penal Code which makes it a severe offence to drive after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, and driving at excessive speeds, are having a noticeable effect on the accident rate.
Mario Arnaldo, president of the Automovilistas Europeos Asociados organisation, says he is surprised at the figures for Malaga because the reduction in fatalities is considerably greater than the national average, which is 10.8 per cent. He is particularly surpised at the huge reduction in the number of motorcyclists who are killed in road accidents: in 2010 there were 15 such fatalities, 10 in 2011 and so far this year there has only been one. Rather than attributing the improvement to policy decisions, though, he thinks it is due to the fact that there are fewer vehicles on the roads, a theory supported by data from petrol stations which shows a drop of five per cent in fuel sales so far this year and an accumulated reduction of more than 25 per cent.
Trinidad Hernández is not so sure. She says when there are fewer vehicles on the roads people tend to drive faster and the consequences are more severe, but she also recognises the fact that a lower density of traffic reduces driver stress levels.
Another reason, says Mario Arnaldo, could be the lack of rainfall. There has been between 30 and 50 per cent less rain than usual and this makes driving conditions more favourable. It has also been suggested that the economic crisis is proving positive for traffic accident figures because many young people can no longer afford to go out as frequently as before. Whatever the reason, everyone is hoping that the trend continues and the fatalities in 2012 are far below the 33 which were registered last year.