First demonstration of political will to end road carnage – Transport Minister to resign from Cabinet if a three-year National Road Safety Plan to reduce road fatalities such as by 15 per cent a year fails
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has hit the nail on the head when in his recently-released report “Global road safety crisis”, he identified the lack of “political will” as the biggest hurdle for nations to overcome to grapple with the problem of high and preventable accident rate and road fatalities.
Annan said “Improving road safety requires strong political will on the part of Governments”, adding that countries should also “aim to ensure that sufficient resources are available, commensurate with the size of the road safety problem in their country”.
One basic cause for the horrendous traffic accident rate and road carnage in Malaysia is the long-standing lack of political will as highlighted by the fact that although there is a Cabinet Committee on Road Safety for the past 13 years, nobody knows who is its present Chairman or members, least of all, what it has been up to since its establishment in 1990 after the horrific Karak Highway accident in 1990 which killed 17 people.
It is a national embarrassment that nobody dares to step forward to admit that he is the Chairman of the Cabinet Committee of Road Safety. If the Transport Minister, Datuk Chan Kong Choy is the Chairman of the Cabinet Committee of Road Safety, he should own up forthwith.
He should issue a report to the nation on the 13-year record of the Cabinet Committee on Road Safety, which was set up with the specific task of reducing road fatalities by 30 per cent by the year 2,000 based on 1989 figures, i.e. 3773 deaths. The report should give the main causes why the Cabinet Committee on Road Safety had failed so miserably, not only in its target of reducing the 1989 road fatalities by 30 per cent by 2,000, but had allowed road carnage to worsen as road fatalities increased by leaps and bounds – in one year, reaching 67 per cent higher than the 1989 fatalities - with the total carnage of 70,749 deaths in the past 13 years, averaging 5,442 fatalities a year or 15 road deaths every day for the past 13 years!
It is most shocking that the Cabinet Committee on Road Safety had never formulated any National Road Safety Plan. In Denmark, the National Road Safety Plan is monitored three times per year, and evaluated every four years focusing on the number of crashes, number of fatalities and serious injuries, speeds, drink-driving, accidents at intersections, and accident involving cyclists.
The vision and central theme in the Danish Road Safety Strategy is: “Every Accident is One too Many”, setting the country on a zero-accident objective.
DAP is not asking for such a National Road Safety Plan motto for Malaysia, but at least, we must be prepared to declare: “Every Road Fatality is One too Many”!
In Denmark, there were 498 road fatalities in 2000 compared to 6,035 in Malaysia for that year. In Malaysia, there is only publicity and government concern once a year during the road carnage of the national festive holidays, although this is an all-year-round phenomenon, with the daily average of fatalities for the year not very different from the average daily fatalities during the holiday festivities whether under Ops Sikap or the previous Ops Statik.
As a start to demonstrate that Malaysia has found the political will to declare an all-out war against road carnage in the country, the Prime Minister should announce that the Transport Minister will resign from the Cabinet if a three-year National Road Safety Plan to reduce road fatalities such as by 15 per cent a year fails.
I do not think any other innovative proposal could have a more electrifying effect to demonstrate the presence of political will to combat the scourge of road carnage in Malaysia, as well as to inspire a completely new mindset to formulate and implement a National Road Safety Plan to remove Malaysia from among the world’s countries with the highest road fatalities.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman