By Mariam Mokhtar
At some point in our lives, we have all been stopped by officers from the Road Transport Department (RTD), or policemen manning a roadblock. Many of us complain about the delay, because these roadblocks create a backlog several miles long.
If you were one of those who were stopped for driving in the emergency lane (the hard shoulder of the highway), would your reasons for doing so be one of the following:
You wanted to avoid the traffic congestion.
You had to get to a toilet quickly, as you had a vindaloo the previous night. Or you had too much drink before your journey.
You were unaware that no one could drive on the emergency lane.
There were too many broken down vehicles and you wanted to avoid them, to get to your destination quickly.
The focus has always been on the ordinary road-user; but have you ever wondered what happens to the RTD officers and policemen who are caught speeding, or jumping red lights or are guilty of other traffic offences?
On October 7, 2016, the Road Transport Department (RTD) deputy director-general, Yusoff Ayob, was filmed in his car, number plate BLY68, driving on the emergency lane of Lingkaran Putrajaya.
When his case, finally came to court, in July 2017, he pleaded guilty to the charge of violating Rule 53(1) of the Road Traffic Rules 1959. This offence is punishable under Section 119 (2) of the Road Transport Act 1987, and it carries a maximum imprisonment of six months or fine of up to RM2000, or both, upon conviction.
As a senior RTD officer, he has brought his department into disrepute. He should have known better than to commit this serious crime, but when his case was brought to court, he sent a special officer, to plead guilty on his behalf.
How can this be allowed? Was the magistrate not aware of the position he holds in the RTD?
How can another person act as a proxy for the guilty party? What would happen if he had to go to jail?
The rich, or those who acquired their money through illegal means, could pay someone else to go to jail, on their behalf. Hasn't Yusoff committed another crime by this deception?
Why did Yusoff get a small fine and not face the full force of the law, especially as he holds a senior position in the RTD, the department which enforces traffic laws and other laws pertaining to traffic and vehicles.
In July 2016, several road users were charged in court for driving in the emergency lane at KM222 of the North-South Expressway (PLUS) around 5pm on May 22.
In that particular incident, a crash involving two motorcyclists occurred near the Pedas-Linggi rest and service area, at KM222 of the North-South Highway (PLUS).
Although the emergency services were summoned and an ambulance sped to the scene, it was unable to reach the victims in time, as the emergency lane had been blocked by 20 road-users. This was probably a contributory factor in the deaths of the victims.
The presiding magistrate, Nor Azizah Yusof, handed down sentences to all of the accused, who comprised 16 men and four women, whose ages ranged from 23 to 65. Six of them were fined RM1000, 11 were fined RM1500 and the remaining three were fined RM2000.
She warned them that the court had to take into account the public interest of not just the affected accident victims, but other road users. She said, "If you were not using the emergency lane, the help could be channeled immediately… In fact, vehicles involved in a crash can be removed quickly to avoid traffic congestion."
She appreciated the anger of the family members of the accident victims, who would have lamented the fact that the slow response of the emergency services was attributable to the selfish attitude of certain people.
Fast forward to 2017. What if there had been a crash on the Putrajaya highway and the RTD Deputy-DG had been filmed in the line-up of vehicles on the emergency lane, blocking the route of the ambulance, police or fire-fighters?
The twenty drivers from the Pedas-Linggi accident received fines of RM1000 to 2000, whilst Yusoff was only fined RM600.
Yusoff should do the honourable thing and resign, or he should be sacked by his superior. He should have penalty points put on his licence, be fined the maximum of RM2000 and face a jail term.
He dishonoured his department and if we are to educate road-users, then an example should be made of people in positions of responsibility who flout the traffic laws.
It would be interesting to know the percentage of RTD officers, or policemen, who are let off for their traffic violations. Are their slates wiped clean?
The Yusoff case seems to show that the courts are practising double standards.