Malaysia still far from achieving Road Safety Plan goals

Since 2007 the behavior of commercial vehicle drivers has been a major issue, and continues to remain so. The result is that bus accidents continually haunt Malaysians, with two bus accidents occurring in Johor within 24 hours of each other recently. In both cases the blame has been put on the drivers for over-speeding.

Commercial vehicle drivers play a key role in providing safe journeys for passengers as well as goods. The state of mind and health of drivers and the preparation before the journey all count. The company management has to ensure that drivers are sent for training to equip them with knowledge to be proactive during conflict situations and emergencies during journeys. Good driver management will result in good driver behavior and fewer summonses.

Good driver management coupled with vehicle management, risk and journey management and proper reporting and data management will ensure safe and efficient transportation.

We have heard about Safety, Health and Environment Code of Practice (SHE COP) since 2007, to manage and address driver, journey and vehicle problems. There was a plan to retrain commercial vehicle drivers and send them for safety courses. Commercial vehicles were supposed to be installed with GPS units to track vehicles that were over-speeding or going off-track. All these plans received so much publicity, but we do not see meaningful results.

After a series of fatal express bus accidents in 2007, the authorities finally realized that our bus bodies were not constructed to meet minimum safety specifications. The roof construction and anchorage of seats were found to be weak. This resulted in roof of buses breaking off during crashes and seats jettisoned and flinging passengers out. The absence of seat belts added to the problem.

The roof of the bus carrying hospital workers in Johor in the recent accident was ripped off and many passengers were flung out. Until today, seat belts are not mandatory in buses. The scenario was not much different from those in 2007, except that there were no fatalities this time.

While this article was being written, two more bus accidents were reported. One was at Shah Alam caused by brake failure. The second accident occurred on the North-South Highway, near Behrang, leaving 4 dead and 5 critically injured. The cause of accident was unkown at the time of reporting.

The re-registration exercise by Land, Public Transport Commission (SPAD) recently exposed the existence of thousands of illegal commercial vehicles which have not undergone routine roadworthiness inspections. Many of these vehicles will help to further escalate the road accident statistics in future.

We have still not achieved the goals of our Road Safety Plan 2006-2010, which was to bring down the road fatality index from 23 per 100,000 population in 2006, to 10 per 100,000 by the year 2010. Our fatality index has not improved at all. In contrast, Britain acheived 2.3. What has gone wrong? CAP would like to remind the authorities that Malaysians are still waiting patiently for that day.

Letter to the Editor, 11 November 2011