By Mariam Mokhtar
On March 24, a 16-year-old girl from Kuala Nerang in Kedah, took her father's car for a spin, invited a friend to accompany her and a few minutes later, she was involved in a crash, which killed a motorcyclist.
On March 28, JPJ staff visited 36 schools throughout Malaysia to tell students about their road safety campaign. I am not suggesting that their four-day safety campaign was prompted by the Kuala Nerang accident; but it comes at a time when parents need to take stock of their children's irresponsible acts on public roads.
At a community outreach programme, in Chemor, on April 3, the JPJ director-general, Nadzri Siron, denied reports that JPJ was issuing summonses to students who had broken traffic laws purely as a way for the department to make money. On the contrary, he claimed that the safety campaign was to teach students, most of whom were motorcyclists, to respect traffic laws.
Nadzri claimed that 3642 motorcycles were checked by the JPJ, and that teenage motorcyclists were responsible for 2450 offences.
He said that the majority (764) of the offences were committed by students who did not have valid licences, and 346 students had failed to wear helmets when riding their motorbikes.
The other serious offences were committed by underage motorbike riders, students with expired road tax, students who did not have insurance and students whose vehicles had been modified.
During the community meeting, Nadzri said that his department had also issued 1349 notices to meet the parents of the students who had violated traffic rules. His aim was to advise the parents to teach their children about the traffic rules and regulations.
Two years ago, the Transport Minister, Liow Tiong Lai, launched the MyLesen initiative at the Surfine Hitech driving institute and told reporters that the government was keen to encourage the 6.7 million unlicensed drivers and motorcyclists, to obtain valid driving licences.
Liow said that the statistics from 2014 showed there were around 14.2 million licensed drivers and riders in Malaysia and that each year, around 600,000 new driving licences were issued.
He said that 43% of motorcyclists, who did not possess a valid licence, were under 26 years old and potentially posed the most serious risk to themselves and others.
Liow said that between 2010 and 2012, police statistics showed that unlicensed motorcyclists accounted for 32% of road deaths and 27% of serious injuries.
So, is the Kuala Nerang accident last month, a wake-up call for parents? Is it just another accident involving teenage unlicensed drivers on Malaysian roads?
Is the Johore Baru accident in February, involving teen race-bikers another wake-up call for parents to discipline their children, or have modern-day parents abandoned their parental responsibilities?
In the Kuala Nerang accident, the motorcyclist's body and her machine were dragged for 21m before the car, victim and motorcycle ended up in a ditch. The 65-year-old victim left behind a husband and six children. She was killed on the spot.
The teenager's father claimed that his daughter had not previously driven his car, and he said that he did not know why she had taken it without his permission.
Sadly, the teenager is among the millions of people in Malaysia, who drive without a valid licence. She can't have one yet, as she is too young to drive legally.
This 16-year-old is one of many children who regularly drive without a license. Can they pretend not to know anything about the laws of the country? Do their parents not advise them?
A few years ago, Aminulrasyid Amzah from Shah Alam took his sister's car without telling her, and he was shot dead having been mistaken for a robber. He was only 14 and his crime did not warrant being shot.
In Malaysia, laws are flouted all the time, but in a population of 30 million, it is shocking that we have around 7 million unlicensed drivers. They are a danger to themselves, and pose a risk to other road users.
When will parents teach their children the traffic rules? If a child wants to ride the family vehicle on a public road, then the parent should pay for the child to learn to drive and pass a test. It is not good enough merely to obtain a licence; the vehicles must also be roadworthy and have insurance coverage.
As events have shown, parents appear to be unable to control their children, or know what their children get up to, and have children who appear not to think it necessary to ask for permission to use their parents' vehicles.
If we want out roads to be safer, then parents have to do their bit at home. A lot of lives could have been saved, if the parents had provided a bit more discipline for their children.