Discounted driving licenses irrelevant

The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) calls to attention the recent recommendation of the Director of the Road Safety Department (JKJR), Datuk Suret Singh, that school students in the Ampang area be given a discount of 50 per cent in fees to obtain driving licenses. This is irrelevant and antithetical to the objective of zero road accidents among youths.

CAP is alarmed at the latest motor vehicle accident statistics which indicate that between 10 to 15 motorcycle riders and pillion riders die as a result of accidents every day in the country.

There has been a 9.6 per cent increase in road accident deaths which translate into 290 additional deaths of which 211 were motorcycle riders and pillion riders, between January and June 2008. This resulted in a total of 3,305 cases as opposed to 3,015 cases within the same period in 2007.

In fact, up until September 2007 there were a total of 4,646 deaths resulting from road accidents in the country. Out of this, 2,476 or 53.3 per cent consisted of motorcycle riders and pillion riders. In 2006, there was a total of 6,287 road accident related deaths of which an increased 3,693 or 58.7 per cent involved riders and pillion riders.

According to the Road Safety Department (JKJR), there are 14 main factors contributing to road accident occurrences in the country with speeding as the primary cause (32.8%) followed by careless driving (28.2%), reckless driving (15.5 %), tailgating (3.8%) and poor road conditions (3%). Overall, motorists’ attitude was found to be the cause for 76.1 per cent of accidents.

Studies also show that motorcyclists run the highest risk of being involved in road accidents followed by car users who are 17 times less at risk. The risk rate decreases with bus passengers who are 30 times less at risk than that. Train passengers are 325 times safer than bus passengers and airplane passengers are 6,000 times safer than train passengers.

The Road Safety Commission Report issued by the Australian Government in May 1978 shows that studies indicate that motorcyclists are more vulnerable to dangers posed by pot-holes and oil spills on roads than other motorists. Moreover, motorcyclists are virtually unprotected from impacts resulting from collisions with road dividers, traffic lights, lamp posts and road signboards.

A study entitled “Road Accidents: Data Analysis of Motorcyclists” by Talib Ria Jaafar which was featured in the Journal of Technology, June 2003 published by UITM shows that more than 60 percent of motorcycle road accident deaths involved riders between the ages of 11 to 30 years old. In 1998, 35.1 percent of motorcyclist deaths involved riders between 10 to 20 years old and 32.1 percent involved riders between 20 to 30 years old. According to the report, these riders share similar traits such as immaturity, being prone to anger, impatient, discourteous and willing to accept challenges without fear of consequences.

According to a working paper by the Transport Ministry of Australia, Motorbike Safety In Queensland, Australia, 2008, 39 per cent of accidents occurring in Australia involved youths who had acquired their licenses for less than a year. Consequently, the establishment of stricter regulations for the issuance of licenses was seen to be as the best approach to minimize road accident incidences among youths.

There is also an immediate need by the Transport Ministry to tighten motorcycle license issuance regulations to those as young as 16 years old. It is illogical to assume that a youth of that age would be aware of road safety rules and be sufficiently mature to be responsible for his life and that of others. Many of them are inclined to perceive their machines as merely instruments of fun and recklessness.

Consequently, adopting a sterner and more conservative approach with regards to motorcycle license application and renewal policies for youths is a more rational solution to the worrying trend of increasing deaths among young motorcyclists than encouraging cheaper licensing.

If the JKJR prefers to go ahead with the implementation of discounted licensing for youths as a perceived deterrent to illegal racing, CAP urges the authorities to make it mandatory that motorcyclists between the ages of 16 and 21 be allowed to ride only motorcycles with engine capacities not exceeding 70c.c. This is to restrain them from speeding and riding recklessly. It is also imperative that motorcycles of 70c.c. or less are reintroduced into the market to help save their lives as well as those of other road users. Motorcycles with higher engine capacities should only be made available to those aged 21 years and above.

Press Statement, 29 May 2009