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Jacob George Menon 5

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The last time we made negative news internationally, away from corruption, act of terror kidnappings or of alleged terrorist sympathizers in our midst, was when a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found Malaysian roads are the 17th deadliest in the world!

But my contention then was, that study was flawed big time as it used outdated data of 2008 from the World Health Organization, where the said authors of the study found that road accidents caused 30 deaths for every 100,000 people in Malaysia’s population.

Basically it means, that 6.0 per cent of all deaths in the country were caused by road accident fatalities.

If one decides to make a comparison of road accidents and fatalities across some regions, we may find that road accidents in Thailand caused 44 deaths per 100,000 of people, making it the second most deadly country for road accidents.

Namibia topped the list with 45 deaths per 100,000 of the population.

In comparison, coronary heart disease made up 17 per cent of total deaths in Malaysia, making it the number one killer in the country.

The other two main killers in Malaysia were cancer, which made up 15 per cent of total deaths and stroke at 9 per cent.

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Despite that, the study showed that Malaysia has among the lowest overall fatality rates with 494 deaths per 100,000 people, and was placed 170th among the 193 countries surveyed.

This beckons a very serious question in a land where according to public and international perception among the many lawlessness are the lawlessness we see on the roads of Malaysia!

Are Malaysian road users taking responsibility for their own safety, while, driving as more than 80% of traffic accidents are caused by human error according to investigations and surveys done by the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, Selangor (CASSA).

Furthermore, the death of 65,850 people in road accidents between 2004 and 2013 had resulted in as much as RM78 billion being lost in economic contributions with an average of RM1.2 million each.

Now this begs a pertinent question!

Who do we hold accountable for the road carnage we see and witness in Malaysia?

And what needs to be done to address this loss?

Among the places where fingers can be pointed are, at the alleged lack of proper law enforcement and this despite hundreds of thousands of traffic summonses issued each year?

I am certain that the stakeholders and among them, the police and other relevant authorities are doing their part, but, that is certainly not enough!

Every road user and vehicle owner needs to abide by the law and ensure safety of himself and that of other road users!

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Instead of blaming others, road users should take it upon themselves to drive safely and be more considerate of other road users and attentive of their surroundings.

Stakeholders who run and manage highways needs must play their part as they have a contractual duty of care to ensure that the ‘pay and use highways’ are free of all kinds and forms of dangers!

But this is not always the case, as retreaded tyres parts and other foreign bodies which includes nails, stones and pebbles are on highways and pose a serious danger to users!

Then, we also have heavy vehicles and trans-border coaches who throw caution to the wind with their drivers speeding, or vehicle overloading, many behind the steering despite under the influence of substance abuse?

We have accidents, we have fatalities!

And every year we have a litany of such cases and reruns and verbal diarrhea from the authorities promising action and draconian changes that never comes!

Will change come in 2017?

We already had a total of 489,606 road accidents in 2015, compared to 476,196 in 2014.

In 2015 we are told that there were 6,706 deaths through accidents, translating to roughly 18 deaths daily due to road accidents.

And is the silver bullet, the recently introduced traffic changes, speed cameras, cameras at traffic lights with its fines and demerit points?

There are more than 90 countries using the AES and other safety camera devises since the late 1970s.

In France it has helped to reduce the number of deaths due to road accidents by 27 percent within three years of its implementation.

In the United Kingdom, traffic violations decreased by six percent while in Kuwait, accidents decreased by 48 percent

But Speed does not kill but recklessness and negligent driving do!

Of course to those in that industry and their peddlers, these are effective propaganda for a sale!

But, I have absolutely no objection to the proposed installation of Automated Enforcement System (AES) cameras at accident prone areas and highways nationwide!

But first, we must address a pertinent question!

Is the AES the silver bullet that reduces fatalities on our roads or is it not another crony get-rich-quick scheme?

Are the cameras there to first give us a comprehensive look and intelligence data, at that careless and reckless driver, their behavior attitudes, secondly create a disciplined and safety first consciousness among Malaysian drivers at all tiers and, finally, mound a responsible road culture generation for the future?

Or instead, are the cameras there as a cash cow for stakeholders?

When the AES pilot project was implemented in Malaysia in 2012, a lot of questions arose, among our elected members of parliament, at a special sitting and briefing by the then Minister of Transport, which also dealt with several amendments to the Road Transport Act, which looked rather draconian!

As Malaysia, ASEAN and APEC lead consumerist. I received a special invitation through the Barisan National Backbenchers Club (BNBC) and was present to participate in that briefing.

In 2014, research conducted by Miros showed that the 14 AES cameras then installed in Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya have proven to be effective in reducing road fatalities due to speeding and running a red light.

That, according to the institute’s findings, there was a 87.6 percent reduction in red light running violations after the cameras were installed at certain traffic light junctions at Jalan Ipoh-Kuala Kangsar and Jalan Pasir Puteh in Perak, and Jalan Klang Lama and Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur.

Fast forward 2017 – the road carnage is still there, and, the behavior of our road users still irresponsible and as such, our road and highway safety cannot be compromised!

But my appeal is, that there should be a balance that the cameras are there to address a concern.

And the process be carried out with a great deal of transparency, accountability, good governance, sensitiveness, dedication and commitment and the cameras there not as a cash cow, but, to help change the mindsets of Malaysian drivers and their handlers, which now is embarrassingly poor and irresponsible!

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