AES: Why We Really Need Them?

(Another fucking moron on the highway, the fact the idiot is getting too excited whenever he sees a high powered car is beside the point but with speeds in excess of 200 km/h with no cops in sight is clearly endangering other road users. This is where AES can come in very effectively – catching such idiots on camera 24 hours a day and in all weathers. Source: Youtube)

I don’t understand why some people failed to see that it is not an issue of profit but rather an issue of enforcement & road safety.

KUALA LUMPUR: The federal government and the concessionaires stand to collect RM51 billion from traffic summonses should all 831 Automated Enforcement System (AES) cameras are installed nationwide, said DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng today.

He also criticised the system for enriching certain individuals at the expense of sorry traffic offenders, saying that no government would try to gauge profits from traffic summonses. “If we did something wrong, you summon us, no problem. But why when issuing summonses, certain individuals are getting profits…” he said.

(Source)

And in response to the above allegation, we have this reply:-

Abdul Rahim in denying allegations that AES operators, Beta Tegap Sdn Bhd and Ates Sdn Bhd were capturing images of traffic offenders for profiteering purposes said RTD had the authority to issue summons, not the operators.

He said the government had made certain provisions to control the profits of the AES operators. Abdul Rahim said the operators bore all the cost of supply, installation and maintenance of AES system as well as its upgrade, if necessary. He said the operators were willing to accept losses in the event of less summons issued due to positive changes in the behavior of road users or vandalism risks on their equipment and cameras.

(Source)

But before we go further, we also have this complaint in the papers:-

It was reported that 63,558 offences were captured by 14 cameras over eight days under the Automated Enforcement System (AES). Therefore, on average, each camera recorded 567 offences a day or one in every two and a half minutes. At this rate, a staggering 171,772,650 offences will be captured in a year when all 830 cameras are used.

Can the Road Transport Department issue such a huge number of summonses and are motorists willing to pay? Laws and rules are meant to protect the majority. If a huge number is penalised, then something must be wrong and ought to be changed.

Super cars are treated the same as jalopies as the cameras cannot discriminate between vehicles. Yet in most instances, it would be no more dangerous for a German car to cruise at 160kph than a 660cc car floating at 110kph.

(Source)

When it comes to enforcement, road safety and adherence to traffic rules & ethics, one have to wake up to 2 stark realities in Malaysia

One – we have a serious case of enforcement of traffic rules and this is largely attributed to the shortage of enforcement personals and higher priority and allocation of limited resources on more serious crime. It is a fact that the police cannot be everywhere at the same time and they have better things to do than to waste time and resource to chase someone who has been speeding. Something more effective is needed to address this and the Government has been trying to address this in recent times under its various measures in its NKRA for crime but it is clear that there is still plenty of work to be done before the general public perception of reduction in crime improves.

Two – we have a load of morons who are on the road on daily basis causing inconvenience and posing serious danger to other road users. Don’t get me wrong – they could be the best husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, boyfriend, girlfriend, co-worker, buddies, etc, very charitable, religious and helpful but when they are on the road, they can be a fucking idiot and a pain in the neck to others. And not surprisingly, a large number of them ride a motorcycle. And it does not take long for them to kick a big fuss (with the usual misplaced & lame excuses and often in collusion with opposition politicians who some are waiting to politicize anything under the sun when it comes to Government policies) whenever the Government announces stronger measures to enforce the traffic laws. Still remember when the RM1,000 fine was proposed and then cancelled? It is not an issue of education but rather care-less attitude.

(The basic flow of AES in Malaysia but it is not a perfect system – there is still room for improvement. Image source: http://www.skyscrapercity.com / TheStar)

AES or Automated Enforcement System is not something new. Seeing policemen with speed cameras / radars by the side of the highway has been a norm for many years now and we also had CCTV cameras in certain area of the traffic for monitoring and enforcement purposes. The old method of having a policeman manning the speeding camera has its weaknesses – one obvious weakness is that the policeman cannot man the speeding camera 24 hours and in all weathers (I personally have seen them “closing shop” when it started to rain and things get more dangerous for others). And it is a wrong allocation of resources –  why sit under the umbrella manning speed cameras for hours when the same policeman can be allocated to do street policing work or work on serious crime investigations?

So the mindless oppositions to the implementation of AES has really dumb-struck me. And the fact that opposition politicians joining in road offenders (hmmm, habitual offenders must really be feeling the bite now) in calling for the AES to be on hold is greatly missing the point. Yes, I agree that there may be an issue in awarding the AES contract to a selected few and perhaps there may just be an issue on the computation of the payments to the AES operators but that has nothing to do with the urgent need to have AES in place for enforcement of traffic rules. Politicians (from all sides) should stress the need for better and effective enforcement methods – one that will take out the man in blue from mundane enforcement work and into more important effective policing work.

They can still voice their concern on the implementation of AES but it has to be with the right focus and questions.

Enriching the Few Allegations

Lim Guan Eng’s contention that the system is enriching certain individuals at the expense of sorry traffic offenders is sorely misplaced. Firstly the system only works if there are traffic offenders. If no one breaks the law (existing laws and not one that was created out of the blue), no summons would be issued and no “individuals” would be enriched “unnecessarily”. It’s dumb to say that the system is designed to enrich only certain individuals (and not for enforcement of traffic laws). Secondly what he meant by “sorry” traffic offenders? If you break the law, you can utter all the sorry you want but at end of the day, you need to pay for the offence.

Rocky’s Bru in his post rightfully call some people including Guan Eng a moron and in this case, they are. Some people simply don’t just get it – AES burdens the traffic offenders, not the taxpayers (same case as the RM1,000 fine but then it was politicized and wrongly portrayed as burdening the tax-payers).

There is a proper place and time to politicize certain issues but not on the measures that actually enforces the traffic laws and one have proven to reduce accidents in a positive way. If these politicians who are opposing AES have a better way to improve the enforcement of traffic laws and reduce the number of fatalities, they should come forward with their ideas. Unfortunately there has been none to date except complaints and allegations on AES.

Educate, Not Punish?

Elsewhere some argues that AES is simply the wrong method deployed to educate the drivers who flaunt on traffic rules. They are arguing that educating drivers must be the priority of the authorities and the authorities should not be focusing on the punishment of the said drivers.

But this is where I don’t understand on why there is a need to “re-educate” the traffic offenders. Unless there some element of “duit kopi“, didn’t they go to driving school and sat for driving test? Have they now become way too stupid to understand that red light means stop or driving more than 110 km/h means the car is driven more than the regulated speed limit? Have they now become way too stupid to read the various warning posted by the authorities by the side of the road and continued to ignore them? If they are, then they should not be allowed to handle a vehicle in the first place (you did not see “Forrest Gump” driving a car, did you?)

You can focus on all the re-education that you want and until the fat lady sings perhaps but I can tell you now that nothing whatsoever will change. This is because the issue at hand is not due to lack of education (people are not that dumb) but rather it is due to attitude problem. These people know that due to lack of enforcement, they can get away with it. There is a clear lack of the perception of being caught and this is why some of the traffic offenders are repeated offenders and that is why AES caught 63,558 offences within one week. Imagine the number of offences committed in areas where the police are not around or AES is not in operation.

At end of the day, if nothing changes, alternative methods must be deployed especially when dealing with habitual offenders. Don’t bother to waste time with calls for education. Some morons will only change their ways when you hit them where it pains them the most – on their wallet, when their driving license is cancelled and when they are banned from driving. For some, punishment can be a powerful form of education too.

(The use of ANPR or Automatic Number Plate Recognition in the UK to detect and remove serious criminals, unsafe vehicles and unsafe drivers from our roads. Yes, they actually seize the car in addition to giving the driver the summons. In Malaysia, we are still being soft on criminals on the road – we don’t seize the unsafe or uninsured vehicles on the spot. Source: Youtube)

Big Car, Small Car Distinction

“Super cars are treated the same as jalopies as the cameras cannot discriminate between vehicles. Yet in most instances, it would be no more dangerous for a German car to cruise at 160kph than a 660cc car floating at 110kph”.

So what? What is the writer’s contention? That the fat rich guy in the big car can break every traffic rules in the book but the poor guy in the small car must strictly adhere by the rules?

When the authorities set the speed limit on a certain length of the road, it is meant for all vehicles – small, big, expensive, cheap, etc. A German car that flies on the fast lane at 160kph kills the same and causes the same bloody mess as the 660cc car floating at 110kph. Technology makes a big difference in terms of safety and comfort to the occupant of the car but it should not make any difference in the eyes of the law. So stop making this big car, small car distinction – it does not any make sense as it does not make things safer for other road users. The treatment of the law must be equal on all.

Talking about speed limit, it is imperative that we need to have a comprehensive study whether the existing speed limits is reasonable given the current status of traffic, road condition and the types of cars that uses the road. If one stretch of road allows you to drive up to 110 km/h but at the very next corner, the speed goes down drastically to say 60 km/h, one need to study whether enough time, notice and room have been given for the driver to slow down to 60 km/h.

What Need to Focus on AES Instead?

We need the AES but in the same case of highways (we need them too), we do not want it to be turned out an economical burden.

We do not want the Government to end up paying millions of ringgit in compensation due to reduced number of summons collected or issued. It happened for highways too – we welcomed the construction of the highways and even know why we pay toll but what we question is the substantial increase in toll charges and the huge compensations paid especially when it is clear that there is also a substantial increase of vehicles using the highway. We question the toll concessionaires’ agreement which is shrouded in secrecy and attempts to view them are met with unbelievable opposition and threats.

We want the politicians to vet the AES contract with greater scrutiny and to ensure that the slip-ups that happened in highway concessionaires’ agreement do not appear in AES agreements. We do not want to end up paying higher summons rates or pay millions of compensation even with high number of summons issued. And this is what the politicians should be focusing on. Keep the implementation of AES intact but ensure that tax-payers money is well protected from any future compensation or bail-outs.

Then we have this:-

The two local contractors handling the Automated Enforcement System (AES) may have paid RM404 million more for the speed cameras.

Anti-Saman Ekor Campaign (KASE) legal adviser Zulhazmi Shariff said today that a Transport Ministry parliamentary reply indicated that the private companies implementing the project for the government, namely Beta Tegap Sdn Bhd and A.T.E.S. Sdn Bhd, had invested RM717 million in the nationwide project.

“From what we found from a filing to the Australian Security Exchange dated Dec 19, 2011, Redflex had announced that it has obtained a contract worth more than USD50 million (RM151 million) to install 450 fixed cameras and 140 mobile cameras for Beta Tegap,” he said, showing copies of the filings of both companies which he obtained online. For Jenoptik Robot, he said the company had announced that it was receiving USD53 million (RM160 million) to install 550 cameras for A.T.E.S. He said the price included implementation and comprehensive support for five years.

Zulhazmi, who is also a PAS member, said this totalled to about RM312 million spent, which was RM404 million less than the RM717 the local companies had invested. “That would make the difference of RM404 million. Why such a high mark up price? “This is pure earning for these companies. Why didn’t the government buy these technologies directly?” he asked.

(Source)

The Government is saying that they or the taxpayers are not paying anything for the hardware and the implementation as it is outsourced to the 2 private companies (who will also bear the costs). So who cares if the companies paying more than what is needed – it is not our money in the first place but is there any implications on the computation of payments to the 2 private companies from the summons collected? Or worse, what happens if the Government is going to “reimburse” the companies at a later point of time for the same hardware? What is the amount we going to pay in the end? We are interested to know this.

(Traditional traffic law enforcement relies exclusively on the presence of an officer to observe violations and identify and cite offenders. Obviously, this limits the effectiveness of traffic law enforcement because police cannot be everywhere. An automated enforcement system fills this gap in enforcement. Source: Youtube)

But AES Still Needs Improvement

There are clear merits on implementing AES and issue of cost aside, AES on it’s own is not perfect and does not cover all aspect of traffic enforcement especially when it comes to enforcement on motorcyclists and heavy vehicles. At the moment, it only covers excessive speeding and running the red lights and it is a good start but it is not enough. A bulk of the fatality involves motorcyclists and a good number of them ride around without helmet, speeding off with any care for red lights, weaving in and out of lanes without any indicators and riding against traffic.

The truth is AES is not designed to work alone – that is very clear from the start. It is designed to work as part of a bigger, comprehensive enforcement system which involves the enforcement agencies and other sub-systems like speed camera, CCTVs and public information. We still need the police, RTD and the local authorities to do their share of the enforcement which includes mobile speed trap, road blocks and patrols. We also need to ensure the various databases from the various departments (police, RTD, National Registration Department, etc) are well integrated so that information is readily made available for all arms of the enforcement agencies any time, any place.

At end of the day, we just want to drive from A to B without the need to be fear or be inconvenient from other road users. As such, we need systems like the AES to be widely used to stem the abuse of traffic rules. And it was good to know that the Government are strict on implementing AES and will not back off from the unfounded oppositions to AES for the time being. That is what all traffic law abiding road users wants also, I am pretty sure.

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7 thoughts on “AES: Why We Really Need Them?

  1. The aes will definitely help making driving in malaysia safer. Here in Melbourne our state has the most cameras per person in the world. Most major intersections capture driving thru red light and speeding; auto number plate recognition checks for unregistered (road tax not paid) or unpaid fines. Speeders over 20 km/h have their car seized for 3 days and repeat offenders can get the car crushed. On highways speed cameras are hidden without any signage.
    Actually most people here think it’s over the top revenue raising even though our death/accident rates have more than halved in the last 10-20 years.

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