Pesky Motorcyclists Part 2

Read Part 1 here

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(As I said it before, it does not matter if you are riding a 50cc bike or a 1500 cc bike. When you fall, your head and your skin suffers the same. No matter what you ride, proper riding attire is a must. Image source: http://www.ridesafebacksafe.co.uk)

In case you missed, this was in the news a couple days ago:-

About RM9bil, or two percent of the Gross Domestic Product of RM528bil in 2010, is lost annually from accidents.

Kong said, based on police statistics, the death rate among motorists and passengers from January to September this year had dropped 4.2 percent compared to last year.

“For pedestrians, it dropped by 14.6 percent, bus drivers and passengers, five percent, while for van drivers and passengers, 24.1 percent,” he said.

However, he said the death rate for the motorcyclist and pillion rider category had gone up by 5.4 percent.

(Source)

Surprisingly on the same day when this was on the news, I almost hit an old aunty on a motorcycle. She was on my left at a junction and when the lights turned green, she swiftly cut in front of me and before I shouted “….toot….” (Fill in the blanks for any vulgar words), she made an illegal u-turn (causing the cars on the other lane to slam on their brakes) and disappeared. If I have not been too distracted by my son tweaking on the song selection on the car mp3 player, things would have been much different for this old aunty and my car (and it being a rural area, it would have very likely the blame for the accident would have fallen on me and that is the last thing I want after this happened).

(Since 1985, fatalities has been on the rise and it seems we are at lost on what we can do to bring the numbers down. Source: MIROS)

(No doubt, we can easily blame the rising fatalities on the rising number of motorcycles registered but have we seriously looked on whether we have lacked in some areas like enforcement and training?. Source: MIROS)

In 2010, statistics show that whilst death rate has fallen for all other categories, it has increased when it comes to motorcyclist and pillion rider and it is not a big surprise. In the same year about 4,067 motorcyclists died and this alone represented more than 60% of the 6,745 road fatalities (based on statistics provided by MIROS)

Lack of enforcement (classic incident like this where no action taken despite breaking of 2 laws), non-existence for the need to review road tax or some form of periodic check (missed opportunity to blacklist repeated offenders) and cheap cost of motorcycles (which made it easy for anyone to purchase them) and it being small and easy for these motorcyclists to weave in and out of traffic (at times with blatant disregard for rules and need to have proper gap between them and other traffic) and of course making illegal u-turns whenever they deem fit. And there is always the eye-sore of seeing young idiots riding around in residential areas without helmets.

So, seeing the jump in deaths of motorcyclist and pillion riders in 2010 is not a big surprise – expect the same in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and beyond unless we get down hard and wrestle this persisting problem by its horn.

There are a couple things that the Government should seriously look into if they are indeed serious in getting the number of deaths for of motorcyclist and pillion riders to start falling in the coming years. These includes:-

1. Stringent enforcement – no “ifs”, no “buts”, no “we will study first” – when the police see any idiots riding around without helmet or valid license or riding against the traffic, they should be stopped and the motorcycle confiscated or held up until a hefty fine is paid. No more sweet talks, no more pat on the shoulder and say “next time”. There must a real fear that if one breaks the law; the long arm of the law is going to get them one way or another. If, as the usual maybe, the offenders ride away before they can be stopped, the motorcycle registration number need to be noted down so that it can be traced.

2. More undercover patrols in well known “lawless” areas should be increased. If these offenders do not know when and how they are going to be stopped, there is high chance that they will be more careful not to break any traffic rules. More undercover patrols also mean more frequent enforcement. To some extend “Automated Enforcement System” will be helpful in remote enforcement but there is still a large area where AES may not be able to cover. Thus undercover patrols would be useful to bridge the gap in areas where AES may be lacking.

3. Whilst it will be difficult to incorporate motorbike lanes on the older roads and smaller trunk roads, the Government should look into modifying and expanding the emergency lanes for motorcyclist use (of course this means other road users cannot abuse emergency lanes) and ensure that they stick to these lanes – away from the heavier traffic where these motorcyclists often ends up as a menace or be endangered by other heavier and faster traffic. With dedicated motorbike lanes, it will be safer for motorcyclists as well. At the same time, the existing motorbike lanes (like the one along the Federal Highway) need to be widened and improved so that more motorcyclists would be encouraged to use them more often.

4. Training for motorcyclists should be revisited with more emphasis on observation of traffic rules and safety instead of skills only. And to ensure that motorcyclists are kept trained and reminded of traffic rules and safety aspect of riding a motorcycle, make the motorcycle license subject to bi-yearly renewal – riders must pass riding test before they are allowed to continue motorcycles. This way, whoever failed to pass their riding exams, will not be able to ride motorcycle whilst at the same time, ensuring that one is competent enough to handle a motorcycle on public roads. Size and price of motorcycles should not be used as an excuse to take things lightly – it deserves the same due care and expertise as one who operates a heavy machinery.

5. Training for other road users on motorcyclists. Whilst we are on the subject of training – there is little in the current training syllabus for other road users on how to react and respond to motorcyclists when they are sharing the same road. At times, there is little room for the motorcyclists to have enough room to ride safely on the road. And this is compounded by the fact that there is no dedicated motorcycle lanes in most part of the country. Realistically most of the other road users see motorcyclists as invading their space on the road and fail to provide the necessary gap for these motorcyclists. Some changes lanes without providing proper signals, failing to understand that motorcyclists (due to lack of motorbike lanes) rides between the existing 2 lanes.

6. Make proper riding safety attire mandatory. In Malaysia, there is no need for motorcyclists to ride motorcycles with proper safety attire – all is required from them is to wear a flimsy helmet (and not all are SIRIM approved) and nothing more. Make them mandatory – wear proper gloves, leather jacket and proper riding boots and these are things that make a big difference when you are involved in an accident.

One may say that the Government already facing problems to even get these motorcyclists to wear their helmets, what more of other part of the attire. But if you think about it, is it laughable that despite the increase in number of deaths, we have not really tighten the loopholes in enforcement and training – we must start off in the right footing and follow up with the right enforcement and in time, it will not be so difficult to get proper attire to be the norm

It is a fact that motorcycle is cheap and is a very convenient way to move around – I know, I rode motorcycle to work for a good number of years – I rode a kapchai for years but although it was a very small bike (if compared to those big superbikes that one sees on the highway), I have learned over time that personal safety should never be comprised – good helmet, tear proof motorbike jacket and leather gloves and in the same flow, abide traffic rules and safety. And I don’t see why these simple steps cannot be strongly promoted with the backing of relevant laws and strict enforcement.

RM9 billion loss is not small amount – it is affects the nation in many ways too. Can we for once wake up and start looking into this national problem and start pushing the numbers down?

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