By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
Operasi Selamat 16/2020 launched on January 18 and ended on February 1, in view of the Chinese New Year festivity, recorded 230 fatalities. The highest number being motorcyclists and pillion riders with 147 deaths.
Some 23,200 road accidents were recorded throughout the 14-day period a jump of 11 per cent compared to a similar operation held in 2019. Incidentally, almost 295,000 summons were issued by the Police to motorists and motorcyclists for various traffic offences committed over the said period.
Road accidents cost the nation an estimated RM9 billion annually. It is a huge loss to the country as those killed and maimed are mainly adolescents within the 16 to 40 age group. They still have plenty to give to the country in terms of service but their lives are being abruptly curtailed while still in their prime. The authorities should, therefore, act to tighten the laws, enforce and apply them appropriately without fear or favour.
The festive season also saw many accidents caused by drink driving, especially in major cities like Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Bahru. Ipoh is not spared either.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is worrisome as drivers have poor control of their reflexes. The resulting accidents may cause lives and damages to public properties such as lampposts, water pipes and road signs. There have been instances where the motorists would bulldoze into shops and roadside stalls killing innocent bystanders in the process.
Perhaps the authorities should take a closer look at Sweden. Over there, driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol is considered a detestable crime. This is regardless of whether the driver is involved in an accident or not.
It was a Swedish tradition those days to drink until you are completely out. Today, however, things have changed. Sweden has the lowest rate of alcohol abuse and drink-driving in Europe. Anyone who has consumed alcohol, no matter how little, does not drive.
Fines are based upon the amount of money the offender has in his bank account. The more money he has, the bigger the fine. Vehicles of repeat offenders are impounded and scrapped. If this is done here in Ipoh, scrap metal dealers on Lahat Road will be the major benefactors. They will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Government-owned motor vehicles in Sweden are fitted with an alcohol ignition interlock device which prevents the vehicle from being started if traces of alcohol are detected on the driver.
In Malaysia, our laws need tightening and, more importantly, the authorities need to ensure that they are implemented fairly without regard for the status of a person.
I have known of many who were let off with just a slap on the wrist for driving under the influence of alcohol. This is in spite of obvious signs like slurring while talking and not being able to walk straight. The absence of breathalyzers compounds the problem further.
One of the major drawbacks in creating awareness among Malaysian motorists on the importance of road safety is the practice of offering discounts for unpaid summonses. It has become a ritual almost and is not doing any good to the country. The practice should stop immediately.
Discounts would only encourage offenders to continue breaking the rules. Even municipal councils have jumped on the bandwagon. They too are offering discounts to ratepayers to settle their fines and compounds. So all one needs to do is to wait till it is past the deadline.
Discounts of 50 per cent are normally given. A “one-off” offer is the bait to draw in the crowd. Well, people are no fools. They will wait for the opportunity to pay less no matter what. And since the councils need the money they will gladly accede, no matter what.
During festivities, Police should keep tabs on bars and eateries where drinking is permitted. They should then check the drivers leaving the premises. Malaysians, generally, are not in the habit of foregoing driving when they are “high”. It will embolden them instead.
According to statistics, motorcyclists comprise about 60 per cent of road fatalities. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable are those within 16 to 30 years of age.
Therefore, the government must encourage the use of public transport by making it affordable and convenient to use. But this seldom happens in our towns. Ipoh’s unpredictable public transport has no defined routes and timetables to follow. It is non-existent after 10pm.
Make it mandatory for public transport vehicles and private cars to be installed with alcohol sensing devices that will prevent a drunk driver from starting his vehicle and stop tempting ratepayers with discounts however generous they may be. This will only lull them into a state of complacency which is bad for the country.
For a change why not offer discounts for those who pay their dues early or on time.