STATISTICS showed that 6,706 lives were lost in about 489,600 Malaysian road accidents last year. The recent death tolls tell us that it will probably be worse in the coming years as more and more vehicles ply the roads.
One of the major causes of road accidents is excessive speed. It is the biggest killer on our roads and, sadly, widely tolerated as an acceptable social behaviour among our people.
The recent announcement on safety belts in buses might save lives but it will still not stop drivers from speeding and causing injuries to innocent people and properties.
Strangely enough, the many traffic laws, safety campaigns and constant enforcement efforts by the relevant authorities do not seem to have increased the awareness level among Malaysian drivers of the dangers of speeding. Most of the time, it is like a cat-and-mouse game where they toe the line when they sense enforcement officers close by and then speed off again once the coast is clear.
Traffic accidents causing deaths and serious injuries not only bring on emotional problems and lifelong trauma but also involve big economic losses to the family and the country as a whole. The loss of a single life in a traffic accident will have disastrous economic repercussions on the whole family and relatives for years to come.
As speed is one of the major causes of fatal accidents on our roads, we should look into speed management as an important tool for improving road safety. As a possible solution, our Government should seriously think about introducing a law for the installation of tamper-proof vehicle speed limiters or speed governors on all buses, lorries and perhaps later on for private cars. The installation of such devices would prevent numerous accidents as the device would curb the vehicle speed to a preset limit.
Obviously, emergency vehicles such as police cars, ambulances, fire engines and other vehicles in need of speed should be exempted from the list.
Though vehicle speed limiters have some obvious disadvantages, they would, in cases of accidents, lessen the risk and magnitude of the accident. They might also, in the long run, reduce the impact of wear and tear on the vehicles and even save fuel.
The introduction of such a drastic measure would not be popular with speed-lovers and business as it would mean economic losses due to longer time on the roads, adaptation of schedules, added cost in installation and the harassment due to constant enforcement checks on the devices. But it will, in the long run, save lots of lives.
Such a system has the potential to reduce our police and the Road Transport Department’s labour on the roads (especially during public holidays), lessen emergency labour in hospitals and at the same time enhance traffic safety. It should also make us drive with less anxiety, stress and more joy during long journeys.