Redefining role of the police in road safety in the Covid-19 era

Photo: Fire and Rescue Department

OUR salutations and thanksgivings are due to the police for their selfless service as frontliners, emergency responders and enforcers of the movement control order in this Covid-19 era. They have truly extended their roles and responsibilities to keep Malaysia safe. They should further act to preserve their valuable resources to continue to contribute to the development of the nation.

We are all aware that the number of road traffic crashes, injuries and deaths have decreased due to the MCO – or “exposure control” in safety terminology. In previous years we have been unable to maintain a sustained reduction in the annual number of road traffic deaths. Now that we have achie-ved some success, how can we further improve the road safety situation?

The police have played an important role in road safety through the enforcement of road rules, investigation of crashes and data collection. However, due to widespread non-compliance with safety regulations among the public, it is difficult for them and other enforcement agencies (like the Road Transport Department and local authorities) to rapidly enforce all rules at the same time throughout the country. There would be widespread criticism and repercussions if this is carried out.

This pandemic, however, provides an opportunity for redefining the role of the police. They have had to set up roadblocks throughout the country primarily to enforce the MCO in different areas. They could use this opportunity to “secondarily” enforce road safety measures. No additional manpower is required but a little extra time to enforce rules

on speeds, helmet use, seatbelts, visibility, use of mobile phones, and drinking and driving. It is equivalent to “hitting two mangoes with one stone”.

It would be a good idea, perhaps, to announce and publicise their intentions to carry out such secondary enforcement.

These measures would greatly increase the “perception of being caught” among the public, which is a strong determinant of behaviour/compliance with road safety regulations.

The second role the police play is in investigating road crashes. They could reduce their workload by investigating only major crashes which have caused fatal/serious injuries as well as simplifying their processes, forms, etc.

The insurance sector could complement their role by investigating minor crashes. Under the insurance policy schedule, an insurance company is not obliged to pay out claims in the event of non-compliance with any traffic safety regulations (like wearing helmets, seat belts, etc). It is cruel and inhuman to deprive an individual or family of compensation in the event of injury or death due to non-compliance with legislation. However, in the larger interest of the safety of society, it is pertinent to constantly remind road users of this insurance clause.

What would also help is if all employers – government and private – ensure that employees comply with traffic safety regulations for reasons of (a) vested interest in the welfare of their employees; (b) obligation under the Occupational Safety and Health Act; and (c) compliance with their group accident insurance policies.

The third way in which the police could save valuable resources is to publish raw data on crashes on their website, like how Fatality Analysis System data of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Agency is posted. This would significantly help the traffic police division at headquarters which analyses and publishes annual reports on road crashes.

Road crashes affect mainly our young. So we must become a safer nation on the road.SENIOR PROF DR


AIMST University, Kedah

Note: The letter writer was formerly a Technical Officer (Injury Prevention) in the Western Pacific Regional Office of the World Health Organisation.

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