Electronic Enforcement May Deter Speeding And Reduce Road Accidents
By Yong Soo Heong
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 (Bernama) -- Speed kills but this fact has not sunk in with many Malaysian motorists judging from the relatively high number of road accidents as a result of driving with wild abandon.
Not a day goes without the media reporting some gory accidents in Malaysia.
According to the Ministry of Transport (MoT), between 7,000 and 7,500 people perished annually on Malaysian roads and highways each year between 2001 and 2007, a relatively high figure considering the country's population of only 27 million.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat recently said that excessive speeding usually contributed to 60 to 70 per cent of accidents.
A study by the International Institute of Administrative Sciences two years ago found that speed was a key risk factor in road traffic injuries, influencing both the risk of road traffic crashes and the severity of injuries that result from them.
Higher speeds lead to a greater risk of a crash and a greater probability of serious injuries. Also, at high speed, errors by the driver are magnified.
Interestingly, the most common reason or excuse among Malaysian drivers whenever they are involved in accident has been: "I had lost control of my vehicle."
Very rarely would the offenders admit that they had been speeding.
Perhaps driving attitudes will change when there is a more efficient surveillance and enforcement through electronic means.
A round-the-clock system at strategic points will definitely bring the offenders to book without fear or favour, hence eliminating the propensity for corruption.
Another area to look into is the cost of fines for speeding, where relative affordability makes it a poor deterrent.
In Malaysia, a fine of RM300 is imposed for speeding, certainly a far cry from the maximum penalty of an equivalent to RM19,290 in France or RM12,860 in Portugal.
In Singapore, it will cost a speed offender RM490, the Philippines RM370 and Thailand RM1,040.
Other countries, which may make drivers think twice about speeding, are Britain (RM1,880), Germany (RM2,190), Sweden (RM2,210), Australia (RM3,040), the United States (RM4,710) and Italy (RM7,370).
The World Health Organisation's Global Safety Report on Road Safety 2008 states that Malaysia, with 16.8 million vehicles registered in 2007, averaged 3.7 road accident deaths per 10,000 vehicles.
This makes Malaysia with the highest death rate per 10,000 vehicles in Asean.
Indonesia has a rate of 2.6, Singapore (2.5), Philippines (2.1) and Brunei (1.8).
Of comfort is the fact that the death rate has now been brought down considerably after the MoT's Road Safety Department was formed in 2004.
In 1996 the fatality rate was 8.2 per 10,000 vehicles.
Among the developed countries, the United States registered 1.7 road accident deaths per 10,000 vehicles, Australia (1.1), the United Kingdom (1.0), Germany (0.9) with Japan and Switzerland recording the lowest rate at 0.7.
Malaysia has set a target of 2.0 deaths per 10,000 vehicles by 2010. Can we achieve this when many motorists often throw caution to the winds?
Take for example, the current Ops Sikap campaign to reduce the number of road accidents. Despite the presence of some 2,000 police personnel on the watch along major highways and trunk roads, the death toll between Sept 13 and 24 was 210 or averaging 17.5 deaths per day.
The first Ops Sikap in 2002 saw an average of 14.9 deaths per day. Today, we are still hovering around the same number, if not higher.
It is a horrifying thought that nearly 18 people die from road accidents daily during this festive period.
It simply means that every one hour and 20 minutes will result in someone's friend or family member dying from road accidents.
Each festive season is supposed to spell a lot of joy and cheer, but for many Malaysians, they also have to live with the sorrow and bitter memories of the loss of life and limb among family members and friends through accidents that occur during festivals.
Added to that will be the burden of caring for those injured and unable to work anymore.
It has been estimated that road accidents and their consequences cost governments almost 2.0 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product. For Malaysia, this works out to nearly RM9 billion each year out of a GDP of about RM523 billion.
The MoT's five-year action plan adopted by the cabinet on March 15, 2006 outlines nine strategies to tackle road safety by targeting areas such as education, enforcement, engineering and the environment.
Central to this plan is making Malaysia on par with world best practices in road safety by 2010.
One of the key strategies is the use of state-of-the-art technologies to help in more effective enforcement.
In battling the high road carnage, the Road Transport Department has begun studying various options, which will lead to safer roads, including the use of better technology to police errant drivers.
Perhaps Malaysia ought to look at Britain's example. Following its deployment of technology for a more efficient enforcement, Britain reported 42 per cent drop in deaths and serious injuries and a 22 per cent reduction in personal injury collisions in the areas under surveillance.
With its record of an average of 1,745 killed or seriously injured victims each years, the UK Department of Transport reported that it meant considerable savings at 258 million or RM1.5 billion for British society in the 2003/04 financial year.
Similar results had also occurred in France and Germany following the automation of speed checks, which increases deterrence of potential offenders and reduces the incidence of speeding.
Automated surveillance and enforcement also contribute to a reduction in speeds and the number of accident victims.
Such automation is a technological breakthrough, often obtaining favourable results and at a much lower cost since it can work round the clock.
Proponents of a more efficient enforcement say that with the relatively high rate of road deaths as reflected in the current festive season, it is high time that Malaysia evaluates the implementation of electronic surveillance to reduce the carnage on the roads as well as the economic loss of lives and property.