‘Police encourage drunk driving,’ insurers say

People are encouraged to drive while intoxicated as random breath tests are not carried out and police are advising traffic accident victims not to report drunk drivers, the Malta Insurance Association has charged ( MIA).

The association’s chief executive, Adrian Galea, has called for the law to allow random breathalyzer tests to be carried out during spot checks.

He also confirmed that insurance company customers were being told by police officers that if they reported the offender was under the influence of alcohol, their insurance policy would not cover the damage.

“By their very actions, the police aid and encourage, or rather encourage, drunk drivers to get behind the wheel,” he said.

It was bad enough that the law only allowed breathalyzer tests if a police officer had some degree of suspicion, “but letting such intoxicated people off the hook with such misinformation and ignorance shows how point law enforcement fell. ,” he said.

He added that contrary to what the victims were told, they were always compensated whether the perpetrator or the perpetrator was sober, drunk or on drugs.

“Liability insurance protects the victim”

Liability insurance is there to protect the victim, even if the accident was caused by a drunk driver. The insurance company representing that at-fault drunk driver is liable to indemnify if compensation is due, he said.

He also stressed that the law needs to be strengthened to remove the subjectivity surrounding ‘reasonable suspicion’ about breath testing – motorists should be breathalyzed in all serious incidents.

“The law must be specific in stating when breathalyzers must be carried out. The clarity that these amendments would introduce minimizes instances where the police officer must use judgment to determine whether or not there is reasonable suspicion and conduct a breathalyzer test as required by law.

The implications of not carrying out breathalyzers are “horrendous”, as the perpetrator “is allowed to leave the site of the incident unhindered”.

Galea said the association had offered solutions through a series of amendments to address loopholes in the law and empower the police to carry out their duty.

“We have proposed that all drivers involved in a serious traffic accident resulting in injury be breathalysed. According to the analysis carried out by the MIA through statistics collected from members, only 3% of serious accidents were subjected to a breathalyzer test,” he said.

Abusive and erratic driving, speeding, running red lights and being distracted – especially the use of a mobile phone – should be cause for sufficient suspicion for the police officer to stop that driver and submit to a test.

“Proposals welcomed in total indifference”

Galea said the proposals were presented to the enforcement minister in October 2020 but were met with “complete indifference”.

“Nothing has materialized even though we have followed up with two successive transport ministers since then. It is very clear that road safety is not on the government agenda or on the radar screen,” said he declared.

“The same goes for the opposition party. Neither party has addressed road safety in its political manifestos.

“If the authorities could match, at least in part, the vigor and enthusiasm with which we have approached such an important subject, our roads would be a much safer place for all road users.”

He said the association had donated the 15 breathalyzer kits used by the police as it is the government’s responsibility to provide officers with the necessary resources and training and to keep the roads safe.

“We did more than was expected of us,” noted Galea.

“We also lobbied for lower alcohol limits, even in the face of anger from the entertainment and business industry, who said such low alcohol limits would drive some outlets to financial ruin. .

“We helped convince the government to extend the penalty point system to all drivers, as is the case in most European countries,” Galea said.

The police can only arrest a person on reasonable suspicion

A police spokesman could not comment on the allegation that officers were advising motorists not to report drunk drivers. He explained, however, that the police can only arrest a person if there is a reasonable suspicion that the same person is, was or is attempting to drive a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Between January 2019 and the end of last month, 135 drivers tested positive on a breathalyzer while 27 refused to take the test.

A breakdown shows 35 tested positive in 2019, 25 in 2020 and another 25 in 2021.

Seventeen have tested positive so far this year.

In 2020 and 2021, only five tests were carried out on drivers suspected of being under the influence of narcotics.

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About Michael Brafford

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