Road safety: Time to stop talking and start acting

Bernama pic.

I refer to a news item that said: “Reckless drivers causing deaths to be banned for life”. I think it is a natural reaction to be angry as tragic deaths on our roads have been occurring far too often.

But I really wish that we indulged less in knee-jerk reactions and more in long-term measures that can bring about greater safety awareness and change in habit.

It is really quite useless to call for a thorough audit of vehicles and drivers after a major accident has happened. Why tell us that the truck or bus driver was on drugs or had worked continuously for more than 12 hours after the fact? In two or three weeks, we will forget and the cycle will repeat itself.

I wonder why we can’t see that our expressways today are like a war zone. We have express buses overtaking others, going at above the maximum speed displayed on the vehicles.

We have overladen trucks that can hardly move when on a slope. We have lorries and commercial vehicles that are in deplorable condition but still ply our roads and highways. And, of course, we have cars routinely moving at F1 speed.

Each time I use a highway, I can see all this and I wonder why the authorities can’t. Sorry for being blunt, but I think they must be blind or too corrupt to see.

If we really want to bring about change in our habits concerning safety and responsibility, we should adopt measures and apply them consistently.

We have the technology – use it. We have the manpower – deploy it. The time to talk and talk is over.

I have travelled a little in other parts of the world and I never fail to observe how others are doing on road safety. Surely it is worthwhile to learn and adopt some of those measures for our own good.

In Europe, truck and commercial vehicle drivers must comply with driving hours and rest hours, daily, weekly and fortnightly. They have tachometers attached to their vehicles that record everything to allow for inspection and compliance checks at any time. Any violation will result in severe reprimand, including through the suspension of driving licence.

It is time to look at the working conditions and the take-home pay of truck and bus drivers. I think it is time to upgrade the profession and accord the drivers some respect, not as people filling lowly jobs as a last resort.

In Russia, they have patrol cars stationed at intervals, about 50km to 70km apart along the major highways. Police presence alone is more than sufficient to ensure compliance by most drivers. From Kuala Lumpur to Penang, we would only need five or six patrol cars randomly stationed along the expressway to make a difference.

It’s time to act, no point just talking.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.