WITHOUT fail every Friday afternoon, roads near mosques throughout the city will have cars double or even triple-parked.
On Sundays, the same scene is repeated at churches throughout the city. The same goes for places of worship of other religions during their festive seasons.
While one must carry out religious obligations, it does not mean that one must break the law.
Similarly, stand at any street corner during the rush hour and observe the antics of motorcyclists weaving in and out along rows of heavier vehicles. Another familiar sight would be a motorcyclist darting across junctions, with complete disregard for on-coming traffic.
Occasionally, one may hear the screeching of brakes and the sound of collision, followed by irate vehicle-owners yelling at each other. Some of these arguments turn violent.
Go to the rural areas and the scene is no better. Idyllic scenes are often spoiled by motorcycles laden with more passengers than they are designed for, moving along roads and at times competing with vehicles many times their size. Their excuse: it is the rural area.
All these reflect the lackadaisical attitude of Malaysians when it comes to respecting the law.
While we pride ourselves on having many world-class facilities, our behaviour does not reflect our achievements.
Look around and see how easy it would be for people to litter without giving it a thought. This attitude is then passed on to their children and the cycle goes on.
In Malaysia, complete disregard for the law is prevalent among motorists.
Police statistics showed that between 1997 and last year, an average of 5,359 people lost their lives in accidents annually.
Up to August this year, 3,628 were killed and this number is likely to go up.
Compared to Australia, a nation with almost the same population size, our accident rates and fatalities are three times more.
According to the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau, 1,715 fatal accidents were recorded in 2002. In that year, the Royal Malaysian Police recorded 5,372 fatalities.
The fact that any average Malaysian would break the law easily without compunction must be examined.
The fact that it happens is already cause for concern but when the people regard these infractions – which they treat as a “right’” – should set alarm bells ringing.
To blame the authorities would be taking the easy way out.
The detractors would probably have their swords drawn and screaming for heads to roll in the police force, for what they deem to be the police’s inability to bring the situation under control. But to solely blame the police for what is going on now would be unfair.
The police can bring riots under control, reduce crime rates but the one thing that they can not do is to get people to change their attitude.
It is little wonder that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had raised concern over this appalling attitude of Malaysians.
He had said that Malaysians, on the average, are courteous people, but the moment they get behind the wheel, another personality emerges.
Reminder after reminder has come out in the news, from no less than Abdullah himself.
Appeals for people to be more concerned about their own safety has unfortunately fallen on deaf ears.
What Abdullah had suggested – that a public forum be held to discuss the high number of accidents, especially during festive seasons – may have its merits. But whether such a forum could provide an avenue to resolve the issues would be of interest.
In such forums, the participants would talk and suggest solutions to the problems.
In theory, it would be possible to talk about finding ways to reduce the number of accidents but again, it would be just talk and would not accomplish much.
The very fact that the problem lies with the attitude of motorists denotes that only the people can change themselves.
One proposal that could easily be carried out is to conduct road safety campaigns on a major scale.
Unfortunately, Malaysians do not react well to such campaigns.
Otherwise, we would have seen the death of the pirated video, music and software industries.
Only the people can change themselves. Perhaps we should consider reading the Rukun Negara with emphasis on the fifth tenet - mutual respect and good social behaviour (kesopanan dan kesusilaan).
This appears to be sadly lacking among motorists.
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