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Published: Sunday December 9, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday June 29, 2013 MYT 12:47:02 AM

Nation of teens

When are we going to take responsibility for our own lives and future instead of blaming others when things go wrong?

IF you have a smartphone and you search through the various app stores you can download apps from, you will find at least a dozen apps dedicated to one task: Alerting Malaysian drivers when they are in the vicinity of an Automated Enforcement System (AES) camera.

The AES is, simply put, a camera that detects when cars are being driven too fast, and if so, reads the license plate and issues a summons to the car owner. This otherwise impressive technology has been getting bad press, with some state governments against the idea of implementing it (tinyurl.com/cctg83d).

Nevertheless, experience elsewhere in the world has demonstrated the benefits of AES-like systems. A recent article highlighted that in France, the number of road deaths has dropped by 27% within three years of implementation, while in Kuwait, the rate of traffic accidents has dropped by 48% (tinyurl.com/c292zrn).

In Malaysia, initial results seem to point to a similar trend. It was reported in the Dewan Negara that the AES recorded fewer images of traffic offences on the cameras installed at 14 locations compared with the time when it was first implemented (tinyurl.com/ase2awt).

It’s not just the number of accidents that can be reduced, but the severity of accidents. A report by the World Health Organisation stated that “an increase of 1km/h in mean trafρc speed typically results in a 3% increase in the incidence of injury crashes (or an increase of 4%–5% for fatal crashes)”. Furthermore, if an accident causes the vehicle to come to a stop, as the speed “increases from about 20km/h to 100km/h, the probability of fatal injuries increases from close to zero to almost 100%” (tinyurl.com/lxumv2).

So, if the AES can incentivise people to drive slower, resulting in fewer deaths, why are so many people so upset about it?

Could it be that they are, in fact, upset at the idea that a private company might be getting a share of the fines people will pay as a result of speeding, thus making money out of somebody else’s misfortune? Even if this means that the Government spends less money to implement the project as a whole, and that only people who break the law have to pay to support the system?

Because if that’s what you’re really upset about, the best thing to do is to drive under the speed limit and deprive these companies of their income.

Or – dare I say it – are people upset because they can no longer speed and get away with it?

From personal experience, I know the disregard that many Malaysians have for traffic laws. Double parking is commonplace in many parts of Kuala Lumpur and other cities – even when there are large multistorey car park structures in the area. We know that it is partly because people don’t think they will get ticketed, as evidenced by the rush when a traffic policeman arrives on the scene. Suddenly, there are legitimate parking spaces to be had in the vicinity.

So I believe that if people thought they could still get away with speeding, there wouldn’t be as much of an uproar over the implementation of the AES.

I worry that this is evidence that Malaysia as a country is in that transition period when we are not yet mature and are still finding our way. As a nation, we are teenagers.

Look at the evidence: We try to get away with things until we get caught, and then we complain that it’s unfair. We protest at being spoon-fed ideas and information, but yell even louder if our subsidies are taken away. We say we are mature enough to lead our own lives, and yet want safety nets when we make mistakes and discounts when we are fined.

So we say that if crime is high, it must be because the police are not doing their job. Or if the cost of living is expensive, it must be because the Government isn’t doing enough to subsidise goods. Or if Parliament passes bad laws, it must be because the MPs are corrupt.

I wonder, when are we going to take responsibility for our own lives and future instead of blaming others when things go wrong? When are we going to strive to succeed in spite of the shortcomings around us, rather than just throwing our hands up and saying, “I give up, the system is against us”.

At the end of the day, the AES system itself is neither good nor bad, neither justice in a snapshot nor a corrupt cog in a conspiracy machine. You may argue that the speed limits are too low, but it seems disingenuous to only say something about it when you might get caught breaking them.

Rather, it is how we react to it that says a lot about who we are. Is it really so difficult to not speed on the highways? To leave for meetings 15 minutes earlier so we don’t have to rush?

Perhaps the best thing is to accept that speed kills and it does make sense to slow down at the high-risk sections of the highway so that things are safer not just for yourself but for those around you too. After all, I understand there’s an app for that.

■ Logic is the antithesis of emotion but mathematician-turned-scriptwriter Dzof Azmi’s theory is that people need both to make sense of life’s vagaries and contradictions.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Lifestyle, column, contradictheory, dzof azmi

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