By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

I chanced upon this piece of news in The Star recently and it almost knocked me out. A former salesman had 102 unpaid traffic summons collected over a ten-year period. He was flagged down by traffic policemen for stopping in a yellow box during an operation to nab traffic offenders in Georgetown, Penang recently. And that was how his carefree days came to an abrupt end.

The guy had amassed compounds amounting to RM5000, in all. The policeman issuing the back-dated summons using a hand-held printer ran out of paper and had to use a fresh roll. It may sound funny but it just goes to show how irresponsible some Malaysians are. And this I feel is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many out there who have unsettled summons in their names.

The former salesman told reporters, present during the blitz, that he had many more compound tickets dating back to 2007 and beyond. He had been trying to settle them since six years ago by paying one at a time. He was advised to settle the heftier fines first, especially those issued when he ran red lights, talking on his mobile phone and not wearing seat belt when driving. The eventual amount may exceed the RM5000 estimated earlier.

I have been called a slow and over-cautious driver. My wife would take a snooze whenever we travel outstation. But she would be wide awake when her son is at the wheel. She would hold onto the dashboard, muttering some incomprehensible gibberish, when she is in her son’s car.

Youngsters have a way with cars, the faster and flashier the better. I think this is a universally-acquired habit prevalent among kids, and our fortysomething son is no exception. He does the Ipoh-KL route under two hours when it takes me almost three. He is a fast driver but a safe one, I must say. Nevertheless, we are always alert and awake whenever we are in his car. “Sam, remember your wife and daughter,” warned his mother before we get into his dark-blue diesel-powered 3.5-litre Bimmer (BMW). 

Incidentally, our daughter-in-law shares her husband’s passion for speed and fast cars. But she is pretty sober when her in-laws are in her souped-up Honda Insight, a 1.5 hybrid with enough power under the bonnet to tear down the road. 

The authorities are coming down hard on speed fiends and those who flaunt traffic regulations at will. The Road and Transport Department (RTD) will implement the Automated Awareness Safety System fully by year’s end. Effective April 15 only offences involving speeding and beating the red light are given demerit points. Fourteen Automated Enforcement Systems (AES) cameras are installed nationwide. The cameras are to monitor and ‘capture’ traffic offenders. All drivers are given 20 points.

The points are deducted when an offence is committed, the amount is contingent upon the severity of the infringement. Once you lose all 20 points your driving licence would be revoked. Getting a new licence is a hassle you would not want to endure.

I was a little sceptical whether the department was serious in implementing the demerit system until I visited the Ipoh RTD office recently. I was there to renew my car’s road tax and was pleasantly surprised by this new requirement. All applicants are required to produce their identity cards (MyCard) for scanning.

The reason, according to the counter clerk, is to determine whether an applicant has any outstanding compounds or has committed a traffic offence captured on any of the 14 AES cameras. 

The guy ahead of me had 10 compounds for breaching the 110-kph speed limit along Plus Expressway. He had no choice but to pay the fines before he could renew his car’s road tax. Luckily, I had none but it gave me a scare, nonetheless. The department is serious about making the much-touted demerit system works, and that is commendable. The Transport Ministry had wanted to implement it in the past but had either shelved or postponed it for some unknown reasons.

The RTD, in spite of its widely-publicised action, is in the news again. Its deputy director-general, Datuk Yusoff Ayob, was booked for driving on the emergency lane along a Putrajaya highway last year. On Tuesday, July 18, he sent his aide to represent him when his case was up for mention at the magistrate court. Instead of citing him for contempt, the court fined him RM600, in absentia.

This is utter nonsense considering Yusoff’s position as the department’s deputy head. What was he trying to prove? How irresponsible could he be? Had it been you or I, we would end up in the slammer. But there again this is Malaysia, the ‘Land of Endless Possibilities’.  I rest my case.