Don’t be shy of tougher measures on the roads

  • Letters
  • Sunday, 30 Nov 2003

ENOUGH is enough: far too many people have been killed and maimed in horrible traffic accidents on our roads. These painful events are all the more tragic when virtually all of them are so avoidable and unnecessary. 

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has voiced government consideration of higher fines and suspension of driving licences for up to five years. Others like the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health have proposed driving bans of up to 10 years for hard cases. 

The Road Safety Research Centre at Universiti Putra Malaysia has proposed dedicated traffic courts to expedite processing of cases, giving more meaning to legal deterrents against errant driving. Since there is a traffic police department within the federal police force, why not traffic courts as well? 

These and other proposals are being considered by the relevant authorities, and they do not come a day too soon. But apart from new or revised laws, penalties and other provisions, the single most important factor needed is proper enforcement. 

With regular and more frequent law enforcement, errant motorists will begin to feel the heat. Far too many of them assume neither accidents nor arrests will happen to them – until they do, which is then too late. 

The same applies with driving bans for convicted offenders. What is to stop them from driving again within the banned period, unless police roadblocks are properly enforced to stop them, verify their identities, and discover that they are not supposed to drive? 

Unless some drastic revisions are done to improve current conditions, more tragic deaths and injuries will continue. The criminal acts of these offenders become more evil when they make innocent people their victims. 

Let the authorities now contemplating changes be reminded that nothing short of consistent and systematic toughness will work. Offending motorists have been persuaded, appealed to and warned for long enough, with little or no effect. 

Certainly, neither the police nor the Road Transport Department should be trigger-happy in apprehending motorists, since proper care should always be taken in discharging their duties. Once that is assured, they should apply the full force of the law to wrongdoers. 

Those who insist that “education” alone would suffice are not being realistic or up to date. Errant motorists are not ignorant about the highway code, since they have received driving lessons and ostensibly passed their driving tests. 

The guilty are people who choose to disobey the law, often repeatedly, at the cost of life and limb. They will stop at nothing short of tough measures applied with full force. 

A senior police officer once appeared on television to say that the force stands ready to act against traffic offenders, but lacks the political support to see it through. Whether that remark was a frank observation or a mere excuse, it surely cannot be used now. 

The government must be seen to be clear on the issues and firm in its stand. The enforcement authorities need to be consistent and professional in their duties. 

Whether the “soft” approach ever worked at all, its time has surely passed. There are times, like now, when bigger sticks work better than more carrots. 

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