Stop the motorcycle deaths

Motorcyclists are the most vulnerable road users owing to the instability of the vehicle as well as the little or no protection afforded during an accident. This coupled with the attitude of motorcyclists and lax enforcement has created a national disaster on our roads. Neither the authorities nor the people are sensitive or serious about the situation. Deaths on the roads become mere statistics to them.

Each year on an average there are about 465,000 road accidents resulting in nearly 7,000 deaths. Sixty percent or 4,200 of the deaths are contributed by motorcyclists and 40% of that are motorcyclists in the age group of 16 to 25 years.

Many of these young motorcyclists are illegal riders as they have no licence and use their parents or siblings’ bikes with or without permission. They also don’t wear helmets. Since they have not gone through formal training they copy the habits of their parents or friends.
They are therefore not equipped with the right skills, attitude and mental state to face unexpected situations on the road.

It is very disturbing to hear that 310 students were killed and another 84 were critically injured, within the first 3 months of this year, according to media reports. The police issued 21,877 summonses during the same period. Even though the transport authorities had conducted road safety talks in those very schools where the students had shown lackadaisical attitude towards road safety, there has been no improvement.

Two 14 year old teenagers riding a motorcycle were killed in an accident near Baling a week ago. This is common in rural areas. Parents should not allow their children to use their bikes even for short distances and should not purchase bikes for them. The authorities should increase the minimum age limit for riding motorcycles to 21 years.

Of the 25 million vehicles on our roads today, private cars and motorcycles contribute to approximately 11 million each. This is a disastrous combination because the two categories of vehicles closely interact with each other as they compete to get ahead. Motorcyclists often don’t realize the existence of key blind spots around cars and especially heavy vehicles when they weave in-between these vehicles.

We need more and better motorcycle lanes to address this issue.
Motorcycles are killer machines which are 17 times more vulnerable to accidents than cars, because of their two-wheel design which makes them inherently unstable. Uneven road surface, debris, grooves and markings on the road can throw a motorcycle off-course. In the event of a crash the rider is not protected. Even using a helmet and jacket has its limitations depending on how the rider falls.

Motorcycling not only requires skills in handling the machines, but also the ability to ‘read’ the road. Good observation and anticipation are vital for safe riding. The training provided by driving schools should be upgraded and teach defensive riding skills. The testing should be made tough and loopholes for acquiring licence illegally should be plugged.

Motorcyclists sometimes carry more than one pillion rider. Motorcyclists even carry their whole family of 4 or 5 on one bike with very young children precariously seated and hanging on to their parents.

People also use the motorcycle to carry goods like the bread-man, milk-man and newspaper-man. Contractors carry ladders and long poles risking themselves and others on the road. Heavy loads can cause the centre of gravity to be shifted and destabilize the bike. Goods carrying motorcycles should be changed to three-wheelers.

Apart from being a cheap form of transport, the agility of the motorcycle, manoeuvrability, ability to stop quickly and ability to swerve quickly when necessary, are great plus points which particularly appeals to the young and adventurous. Riding a bike gives a young rider a special sense of freedom. These factors also encourage many to turn to Mat Rempit activities.

Our motorcyclists are the biggest law breakers on the roads and the authorities have to get tough on all such dangerous and negative behaviour. Tough enforcement should be maintained throughout the year and not just during festive periods. TV advertisements showing motorcyclists behaving in undesirable manner should not be allowed and all kinds of sports or competitions for motorcycles should be banned.

Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) recommends the following measures be taken:

1. Parents should not allow their children to use their motorcycles at all and also not purchase one for them;

2. The minimum age limit for riding a motorcycle should be increased to 21 years.

3. We need more and better motorcycle lanes;

4. Training and testing of motorcyclists should be upgraded and made tougher. Loopholes for illegal licensing should be eliminated;

5. Three-wheelers should be used for carrying bulky or heavy goods;

6. Enforcement should be toughened and maintained throughout the year;

7. TV advertisements which show riders speeding and misbehaving should be banned;

8. Sports and competitions for motorcycles should be banned.

Press Statement, 9 July 2015