Carnage on our roads
OCT 16 — Much of Malaysian television news time is taken up by ghastly scenes of unspeakable carnage on our state of the art highways. We have the highest number of fatalities of any country in the world based on car ownership per capita.
The road transport department, long known for providing a haven for some of the most corrupt civil servants in the country, must accept full responsibility for the abysmal driving standards and the shocking road manners that contribute to an unwholesome and dangerous experience for law abiding motorists whose only wish is to be left alone to complete their journey in one piece.
The “flying licences” scam in Perak as exposed by Datuk Abu Kassim Mohamed, then Director of the ACA Perak, now MACC’s Chief Commissioner, confirmed the extent of corruption plaguing the road transport department for as long as anyone cared to remember.
A study done by the government of Malaya two years or thereabouts before Merdeka pointed to a similar state of affairs in the RTD. It is, therefore, an old hand at the old game of corruption which has over time unleashed onto an unsuspecting nation tens of thousands potential road killers who have acquired their licenses through bribery and corruption.
The consequences of what can only be described as a betrayal of public trust are to be seen on roads all over the nation in the form of twisted metal encasing mangled bodies of innocent victims of widespread corruption.
Many who are on our roads should not have been allowed near a car in the first place, let alone drive it. Yes, they are licensed to maim and kill, but not to drive with care and consideration. They are a menace not only to themselves but worse still, to other road users.
They develop their own traffic rules as they go along, and as they regard the indicators on the steering column, for example, as optional equipment, you have to learn to be a mind reader to avoid being hit by these ultimate killer-lunatics.
Many of them graduate to bigger things, such as heavy trailer or container lorries and buses in which they develop their bullying tactics into a fine art, overtaking on the left, cutting in without warning, hogging the fast lane, overtaking motor cars which are already travelling close to the legal speed limit and, often, in a display of sheer lunatic streak, force a Kancil off the road.
What a difference when you compare the attitude of those driving buses and heavy lorries in Europe and Australia. They are careful about the safety of the passengers in their care, and the smaller vehicles sharing the road with them.
It begs the question how lorries and buses seem to get away quite literally with murder, which is what they are rather good at. They rule as kings of the highways of Malaysia, among the best in the world.
The laws of the country have never meant much to them. Now perched high up in their cabins above the Peroduas and the Protons of this world, these laws mean nothing at all to them.
As good Malaysians, they believe laws are made to be broken because they are familiar with a well-known local remedy that goes by the name of, “Nak Selesai-kah?” It is a failsafe solution. They also know from experience that the chances of being stopped by an honest enforcement officer are as good as striking a lottery.
Travelling up and down the country, I have rarely seen lorries and buses being stopped by enforcement officers although any one can tell that these lorries are grossly overweight. What is the secret of their immunity, I often wonder?
Successive ministers of transport, without exception, have failed to address the root causes of the unacceptable levels of fatalities on our roads. They have failed to get to the bottom of the problem, although it is clear as crystal to all of us who read and watch the gory details of tragic accidents that could arguably be avoided by better enforcement of existing traffic laws and regulations.
Malaysia is replete with laws; you name them and we have them, and yet why is it that we seem so helpless in creating order out of chaos in our society as a whole? Malaysia, as a country, runs the risk of being over-regulated and under-enforced, with predictable results.
To me it is corruption that is the real killer. The drivers who kill are merely its agents. This problem is so serious that it deserves the attention of a Royal Commission. It should be established immediately to undertake a study and make recommendations for ensuring the efficient management and operations of the Road Transport Department as part of the government’s enhanced delivery system that is the prime minister’s number one priority.
It is, sadly, a matter of life and death.
* This piece first appeared in the New Sunday Times on June 10, 2007 as part of a longer article. It is reissued by the author for publication in The Malaysian Insider as a reminder of the debilitating effects of corruption on society.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.