KUCHING: Apart from Thailand, Malaysia has the highest number of road deaths in South-east Asia, a World Health Organisation shows.
Malaysia recorded 25 deaths out of 100,000 people; compared to 38.1 in Thailand.
The safest road use nation in the region is Singapore, which recorded only 5.1 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the WHO.
The regional average is 17.91 per 100,000 population.
These alarming figures were highlighted at the opening of the International Crashworthiness Conference 2014, held for the first time in Malaysia here, yesterday.
A statement by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), issued in conjunction with the event, said it was “more a sense of attitude than infrastructure that caused road deaths”.
“For Malaysia, there were 6,915 deaths from 6,308 fatal accidents last year, which is an average of 18.9 deaths per day,” the statement said.
Zeroing in on Sarawak, the statement said some people compared road conditions in the state with those in peninsular Malaysia.
“However, the road accident fatality rate in Sarawak is actually comparatively lower than the national rate,” the statement read.
“The rate for Sarawak last year was 16.06 deaths per 100,000 population or 2.8 deaths per 10,000 vehicles.
“Nationally, the rates were almost 25 deaths per 100,000 population or 2.9 deaths per 10,000 vehicles.
“For the first six months of this year, there were 4,076 deaths.”
Miros director-general Prof Dr Wong Shaw Voon said nearly six times as many road death victims were men compared to women.
He said Malaysians would break the law and blame the environment over their own actions.
“There are those who think deaths and accidents are fated or destined.
“Obviously, that’s wrong. Even when accidents occur, it shouldn’t be fatal. If possible, no one should get hurt,” Dr Wong said.
“The higher speed you travel at, the higher the chance of accident.”
Meanwhile, police statistics between 2005 and last year showed most road deaths occurred to those aged 21 to 25 years.
The fatality rate reduces as the age of road users goes up.
In another development, the Road Safety Department estimated that road fatalities could hit 10,000 by the year 2020.
“Last year, there could have been more than 8,000 road deaths based on projections, but there wasn’t, which means it is possible to achieve our target of halving the number,” department director-general Datuk Dr Tam Weng Wah said.
“There is already a slight downward trend, just not as fast as we would like it to go,” he said.
The problem with Malaysian road users, he added, was the idea that those who drove safely should be rewarded.
“There is a law that says rear passengers have to use seat belts but many break that law.
“There are people and organisations who think the Government should give incentives for good behaviour.
“But, the incentive is safety. Even when you are safe, others might not be, so take all preventive measures.”
The conference, which ends on Thursday, was previously held in Melbourne, London and Kyoto.