Malaysians must change their mindset and stop putting the blame on lack of enforcement
START a topic on bad road users in Malaysia and you will have a conversation that will last for hours.
We have all been there – getting annoyed over motorists who beat the red light, running into cars going the wrong way on a one-way street, hazardous lane switching – the list is endless.
Although traffic violations are not unheard of in the developed world, it is not right to compare our faults with that of others.
We should focus solely on improving the Malaysian mindset.
While traffic infractions have been a common occurrence in Malaysia for the longest time, I think the issue has got worse over time, and road accident statistics would agree with this notion.
An article in The Star on Monday titled “Safety first during Hari Raya” cited statistics from the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) which said an estimated 7,100 road deaths last year was an increase from more than 6,700 deaths in 2015.
According to the same statistics on the Miros website, there has been a consistent year-on-year increase in the number of road accidents over the past 20 years.
In fact, the number of road accidents in 2016 was about 2.4 times more than in 1997.
These accidents come at a high cost to the country.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai was quoted in a Feb 2 article as saying that the 521,466 road accidents last year cost the country an estimated RM9.21bil in medical costs, productivity loss and other payouts.
From my own observation of motorists during my daily commute, I feel there is an increasing lack of respect towards road rules.
Motorists commonly speed across a junction when the traffic light turns yellow. But these days, I encounter more motorists and motorcyclists dangerously beating the red light.
A personal experience I can recall took place in Setapak earlier this year. At least five rows of cars had crossed the junction before me and I was following closely when a pair of motorcyclists suddenly crossed in front of me, forcing me to brake abruptly.
Not only was the traffic light not in transition for them, but there were cars moving across the junction and they decided to cross anyway.
My speed was perhaps about 40km/h. Had I not reacted fast enough, I would have had to send both riders and pillion passengers to the hospital with minor injuries.
This happens often, sometimes with motorists trying their luck too.
This is just the tip of the iceberg; dangerous habits like texting while driving, switching lanes without using indicators and tailgating are all acts that can easily cause road accidents.
Some will say that this happens because of lack of enforcement.
But even when fines are issued to traffic offenders, the common line is: “Never mind, no need to pay lah. They won’t come after me.”
Enforcement is rendered useless if Malaysians do not even respect the fines handed to them for violations they committed.
As far as I know, our police are understaffed and have their hands full with more serious crimes such as theft and assault.
Assigning police officers to knock on people’s doors to collect millions of ringgit in unpaid summonses would be an inefficient and near-impossible task, to say the least.
Why should we wait until we are blocked from renewing our driving licences and road tax, or even threatened with prison, before we decide to abide by the law?
Road rules are there for the safety of our society. We should not have the mindset of: “If I do not get punished for it, it is not wrong.”
I sincerely believe that enforcement alone will not resolve this issue. The solution begins with us.
We can be better motorists if we adopt the mindset of respecting other road users and giving way to them whenever it is safe to do so.
We need to make road safety our top priority, educate and encourage our peers to do the same.