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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Ops Sikap: Authorities Should Be Blamed Too


Update: I guess it is unfair to point the fingers at the police alone although they do handle the bulk of the enforcement since there are other agencies involved namely JPJ who handle licensing & training and JKJR who handle the overall coordination and road safety related activities

Back to the original post

(It looks like a plague, idiots on the road without helmet creating nuisance and endangering others – the worse ones even have young kids on the motorcycle. Image source: http://drhanie.blogspot.com/)

This was not a big surprise:-

The number of road accidents and deaths recorded under Ops Sikap 24 during the Hari Raya season was the highest since the operation was launched a decade ago.

A total of 289 people died in 19,606 road accidents during the 15-day operation which ended on Tuesday. Motorcyclists and pillion riders made up 179 or 62% of the fatalities.

There was an 18% jump in fatalities compared to 244 during last Hari Raya and a 16.5% rise in the number of accidents compared to 16,817 last year.

According to police who issued 133,808 summonses for various traffic offences during the operation, more accidents occurred on federal roads than on highways.

(Source)

Let me tell you about my experience when I was in the vicinity of the “lawless” Kampung Medan last week – it was a holiday, so we decided to visit someone here.

I was driving along the main road near Taman Sri Manja around lunch time – traffic was not so bad (due to the holidays) but I noticed something rather common on these roads – there are more motorcyclists riding rather dangerously (and oblivion to on-coming traffic) without helmets than those with helmets on. A large number of these motorcyclists, who been riding around without any helmets, are young. I am pretty sure a number of them are riding their father’s or uncle’s motorcycle possibly without any license or consent too (you still remember this idiot who was shot dead by the police last year?).

I encountered one idiot on the road – a lady with her brand new Hari Raya Baju Kurung with a lady friend as her pillion rider, both not wearing any helmet and busy chit-chatting while riding in the middle of the road, causing a mini traffic jam at the back. Such idiots without helmets whilst on the main road were not the first I encountered along the road. There were many more. Damn, what these idiots are thinking? That they are riding on some back lane in some remote village? That their soft skull is strong enough to withstand a strong impact on the hard pavement? That nothing will happen to them when they fall under wheels of a car?

I then exited the main street and cut into a smaller lane where I saw at the front, another motorcyclist, once again without helmet, weaving in an out of the two lanes. Even as I neared him, he was rather ignorant of the traffic around him and continued to weave in and out. Despite knowing all too well, I did something that often irked similar idiots on the road – I pressed my horns long and hard. It did the job – the idiot quickly moved over and I was able to overtake him safely. As I passing him, I saw him – another young kid (probably in Form 1 or 2) – no helmets, wearing a simple T-shirt and a short pants, flip-flops. He looked back at me, looking rather annoyed that his weaving in and out on public roads has been short-lived.

After I overtook him, I noticed him speeding up to catch up with me (being in the vicinity of Kampung Medan, I was expecting for a gang fight on the street). He overtook me and sped up and then continued with the weaving in and out of the two lanes. But because he was a bit far from my car (and thus no risk of an accident), I decided to let go this idiot to continue with his folly, postponing the “inevitable” for another day.

Now, let’s come back to the statistics of the recent Ops Sikap 24 – the police say that 62% of the fatalities are motorcyclists and there are more fatal accidents on federal roads (the vicinity of Kampung Medan counts as a federal road) than on highways. So, who is to be blamed?

The IGP says that “the main factor which leads to such mishaps is attitude”. I agree that at the end of the day, attitude is the main (if not, the only) consideration when it comes to road safety. Surely if those idiots that I encountered last week had a better attitude, they would have been wearing helmets and abide to the road courtesy and traffic rules. However, there are only certain things you can do to call for a change of attitude before you decide that enough is enough and it is time to take out the thick cane and give one hard on their buttocks.

Seeing idiots on motorcycle without helmet is nothing new especially when it comes to lawless areas like Kampung Medan. But the question is what the authorities are doing about it? I am very certain that if the authorities launches a major operation in this area and nab a couple or two idiots by their neck and confiscate their motorcycles for good, there will be more idiots ending up “seeing the light” and will start wearing helmets and hopefully abide to traffic rules.

The point here is enforcement of traffic rules. We already know that these idiots have attitude problems and despite reminders, safety campaign and strong threats, nothing moved them. Are we just going to resign by saying that “I am saddened by what has happened” and hope for a miracle (that will never come) to happen in the next Ops Sikap 25? I am sure the authorities are much better than that!

It is not enough that we give out summons for a few that was caught in the “net” and even this, does not guarantee that these buggers will not repeat the abuse of traffic rules (remember when things was that bad that the Government even offered some discounts on the summons?). And are we going to only put extra care during the holidays and when we have “Ops Sikap”s? Certainly not!

So, stop pleading for a change of attitude and start enforcing the law. And start with places where the traffic rules are treated worse than dirt. After all, the Government and by extension, the authorities have been “talking” about it since 2005! We do not want the number of fatalities to remain high especially when it involves other law abiding road users.

I say enough of empty talks…it is high time to take out the thick cane. Otherwise, one need to admit that the authorities is also contributing to the statistics.