Malaysiakini Letter

Radical approach to road safety needed

Krishnan Rajam  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | I note with interest the priority given to road safety by our new transport minister.

We have one of the highest road fatality rates in Asia. Our government had, in the past, made numerous attempts to reduce the road traffic injury rate.

We have a unique status of being the only country in the world with an apparently good “infrastructure” for road safety namely, the former Cabinet Committee on Road Safety, the Road Safety Council (a registered society), the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) and a Department of Road Safety with a branch in each state.

Why have we failed in our attempts to curtail the road traffic deaths despite such a heavy “investment”?

The main reason is our overemphasis on efforts at education (including campaigns) without a concomitant (perceived) increase in enforcement.

The real medicine for road safety is the “bitter” enforcement, while education is the “sweetener” in the medicine. Traffic police need to be relieved of their administrative duties so that they can spend their time effectively on the ground – enforcing rules.

The police could theoretically increase their efforts at enforcement overnight but that would not be popular among the people.

The traffic police are eternally in a dilemma as to how much their enforcement level should be, especially when the government of the day tries to be “popular”.

Enforcement in rural areas and those targeted at motorcyclists who carry many children are examples which invoke strong sentiment in people who have fewer alternatives for transport.

Enforcement has to be increased, be both overt/covert, universal (all areas including rural areas), continuous (day/night) and not just seasonal or before festive seasons.

The overall aim should be to increase the “perception of being caught” anywhere/anytime among the people. The people need to be frequently reminded that the level of enforcement will be increased.

We now have hope in a radical approach by the new government. We need to address the “low-hanging fruits” in the field of road safety. These are as follows:

  • Enforcement of laws pertaining to speed limits, drinking and driving,
     
  • Proper wearing of motorcycle helmets of certified quality (preferably full faced),
     
  • Seat belts in front and rear seat belts,
     
  • Distracted driving (handphone use).
     
  • Other “zero-cost’ measures include wearing light / bright coloured clothes (being visible) at night.

Many governments in the region have had success with road safety and their efforts are summarised in the WHO Reports on Road Safety.

We need to urgently emulate some of their efforts.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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