There are different ways of reading the latest cold statistics on accidents on the roads in Malaga province. First, it must be said, there can be no satisfaction at all in seeing that 32 people lost their lives in traffic accidents in the last 12 months.
At least the trend is downwards and not rising, just about. Let's look at the figures: the 32 fatalities in 2022 equalled those in 2021, although it is certain that during that year there were fewer cars on the roads because of the pandemic.
Also, with practically the same average daily intensity of vehicles as in 2019 there were three fewer victims last year (35 in 2019). Sixteen people suffered serious injuries and were admitted to hospital and 21 were treated for minor injuries and able to return home.
Looking at the causes, the report from the DGT shows that one in every three people who died on the roads of Malaga province were not wearing a seatbelt, the government's delegate in Malaga, Francisco Javier Salas, said when he was providing the information to the media. "Ten people who lost their lives did not have this protection, and it is essential," he said.
With regard to 'contributory factors' in fatal traffic accidents, driver distraction (especially when using a mobile phone) and excessive speed were behind 55 per cent and 41 per cent of cases, respectively.
"Both factors are direct causes of accidents, and any lack of attention or distraction can be fatal," Salas said.
All this occurred in a context where the amount of traffic had increased: over the Christmas period the access roads to Malaga city were used by 772,335 vehicles, which was 13 per cent more than a year previously.
One especially serious accident took place during this period, on the A-357 at Casarabonela on Christmas Day when three people were killed. The cause of that crash is currently being investigated.
"Mobile phones are the main cause of driver distraction," warned the provincial head of the Traffic Department, Aída Vilaret, who reiterated the call for drivers and anyone around them to forget about their phones while they are in the car.
Together with speeding, mobile phones account for more accidents than driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. To put things into perspective, Vilaret also said the amount of traffic on the roads had increased by 11 per cent, so it is already back to pre-pandemic levels.
Another important point is that the majority of the most serious accidents occurred on conventional roads (with one lane in each direction): 24 of the 32, compared with eight on dual carriageways and motorways.
This highlights the need to improve some busy roads, especially the access to the Guadalhorce Valley (A-357) where three people were killed on 25 December. There were three accidents on single-lane stretches of this road last year. Only the A-7, which is much longer and a dual carriageway, had a worse record last year, with four. The A-357 is, therefore, the most dangerous road in Malaga province in relation to its length.
One piece of good news about the statistics for last year is that there were fewer deaths of 'vulnerable users' (cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists), as they accounted for 12 of the 32 cases. This was especially so in the case of motorcyclists.