Abdullah should take a rational and sustainable approach instead of an emotional one to the grave problem of road carnage not only during national holidays but all-year-round
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Friday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should take a rational and sustainable approach instead of an emotional one to the grave problem of road carnage not only during national holidays but all-year-round.
Yesterday, Abdullah expressed his frustration and upset at the number of road fatalities recorded under Ops Sikap V, with 25 road deaths on the first day of Hari Raya and the death toll which rose to 104 in the first six days of Ops Sikap V.
Abdullah said banning errant motorists from driving for up to five years and imposing higher fines will be considered as ways to teach such road users a lesson in safe driving. If a motorist caused an accident, the authorities would confiscate his driving licence and prohibit him from driving for five months; if the accident involves fatalities, the person will not be allowed to drive for five years.
He said: “I am simply puzzled why we cannot drive safely. Our motorists still like to misuse the emergency lanes, overtake on the wrong side of the road and drive while feeling sleepy. Isn’t this dangerous?”
I fully agree with Abdullah that all the three highway sins listed by him are dangerous to motorists themselves as well as to other road users.
It is questionable however whether they are the major causes of the road carnage, as seen from the Ops Sikap V figures, which showed that on the second day of Hari Raya on Tuesday, motorcyclists and pillion-riders represented 88 per cent of the total number of road deaths, i.e. 15 out of the death toll of 17.
On the first day of Hari Raya which claimed 25 lives, 19 were motor-cyclists and pillion-riders, four were car drivers and passengers while the other two were a pedestrian and a cyclist.
Statistics released by the Federal traffic police showed that out of the 25 deaths, 11 died on municipal roads, six on State roads, four on Federal roads, three on other roads and one on an expressway. Out of the 823 accidents on that day, 285 were on State roads, 235 on Federal roads, 170 on municipal roads, 92 on other roads and 41 on expressways.
On the second day of Hari Raya, 13 motor-cyclists and two pillion-riders were killed out of a total of 17 deaths reported nationwide, with no death or serious fatal injuries on the expressways.
In the first week of Ops Sikap 5, a total of 5,935 traffic accidents was recorded, with a death toll of 121, out of which 78 or 65 per cent were motorcylists or pillion-riders.
The daily average of the road carnage in the first week of Ops Sikap 5 is 17.2, which is not very different from the daily toll of fatalities from traffic accidents round-the-year. For 2001, for instance, an average of 16.5 people died in road crashes in the country every day, as fatal road crashes claimed the lives of 6,035 people – with motor-cyclists and pillion-riders representing some 60 per cent of the casualties.
Abdullah should ensure that the Cabinet Committee on Road Safety focus on reducing road carnage not only during the national holidays but all-the-year-round. There is considerable public disillusionment with the government indifference and apathy to the road carnage in the country in the past several years, as expressed in the following email:
“This 6000+ deaths have been with us for the last few years and we continue to have VIPs distributing 'drive safely' leaflets at Toll Plaza's, and free coffee at various points and we know that Road deaths have not come down. Do we need more Ministers taking turns at flying around in helicopters to bring the number of accidents down?
“60% of road deaths are among motor cyclists...that means near 4000 deaths are among them, yet compliance of traffic rules, among motorcyclists are probably the lowest among categories.
“As an example one in 6 or 7 motor cyclists do not have rear lights at night! To add to the problem most of them wear dark clothes for obvious reasons and yet we persist on 'riding bright' i.e. motorcyclists riding with their headlights on even during the day, but nothing has been done about the large number of motor cyclists who ride with no lights at night! Do more motor cyclists die on the roads at night?...I don't know, so we do need more facts and figures to tackle these problems.
“Meanwhile the Ministry of Transports persists on wasting taxpayers money, taking on full page advertisements on the need for motorists to think of these poor riders who insist on weaving through the traffic at high speeds. Have all these full page advertisements had any effect on reducing Road deaths? I don't think so.
“I support the call to reduce road accidents by half in one year, and I don't think that that is impossible if we really want to do it, neither does it need 'Nobel Prize' winners to come up with an ‘Action Plan’.....what is needed is some serious soul searching, and 'Doing the RIGHT thing', instead of continuing and wanting to 'Do the Thing right'.”
Can Abdullah provide the leadership to ensure a rational and sustained rather than an emotional approach to the grave problem of road carnage in the country, with a high-powered mission and drive to slash the 6,000 road fatalities annually by 50 per cent within a year?
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman