Commentary Local

Speed limiters, again?!

The "runaway" bus had 63 summonses which on the day of the accident remained unpaid since 2011.

The "runaway" bus had 63 summonses which on the day of the accident remained unpaid since 2011.

Written by Aziz Hassan

Mid-week NotesA weekly column20/07/16

YOU cannot but sometimes love Malaysian politicians, especially when they decide to say their five cents worth.

One fatal accident and one is up arms against the whole world…… specifically, truckers and inter-city buses which can’t agree with the speed limits on our roads, so much so that they have been leaving these limits behind them for donkey’s years now.

During the recent Hari Raya heavy traffic on the North-South Highway, an express bus rammed into some vehicles while going downhill after the Menora Tunnel between Kuala Kangsar and Ipoh which left 10 cars badly damaged. In an immediate reaction the police said they believed faulty brakes could be the cause.

A video of the accident that was posted online seems to indicate that this was indeed why the driver had lost control of his machine.

Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, as Transport Minister, not unexpectedly had to have his day too and stated that it was time for these heavy vehicles to be fitted with a speed limiter. He went on to say that this was not something new since the device was introduced here “a few years ago”.

Read re-introduce then.

It does look like Liow hasn’t been fully and correctly briefed by his civil servants.

These limiters were in fact introduced about 20 years ago, also after a horrific accident on a highway.

Malaysians who used the NSH then may recall seeing a beacon on the roof above the driver’s cabin flashing an amber light whenever the driver drove like one Lewis Hamilton on an F1 circuit.

What seemed like a joke was that the flashing beacons didn’t appear to bother the drivers who continued to endanger the lives of every other road user. Neither did we see any of them being stopped by the enforcers!

For some strange and unknown reasons, the gadget simply disappeared from sight and no one in authority saw it fit to talk about the issue again. No protestations by consumer groups, no questions asked in Parliament either. Silence.

This was not the only traffic- or road-related project that went out of the window. In one or two of these, millions of ringgit must have been spent as start-up and the customary media campaigns.

Over the years there has also been a lot of “chatter” about the Kejara or demerit points system and in more recent years, the Automated Enforcement System or AES. Combine Kejara with the AES and we are going to have the Automated Awareness Safety System but let’s just ignore this for a while because there’s enough thrash on the other systems to pun a stink in our lives.

The following should give you an idea of how disorganised the transport ministry and agencies handling road traffic are.

  • February 2016 – Liow: “Go ahead and implement Kejara”.
  • –do— IGP Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar agrees that the system “must be implemented now”, while also saying that “Kejara had been introduced in 1984”.
  • In the meantime the Road Transport Department website says that “Kejara had been implemented under……”
  • Also in February 2016 – Director-General of the Road Safety Department Datuk Seri Ismail Ahmad says that his department would conduct a feasibility study on the system.
  • We now go back a few years to October 2013, when the RTD says that “Kejora will be back with new and tighter laws to include four new offences, with effect from January 2014.
  • August 2015 – Liow again: “Kejora will be back by end of 2015 together with the AES (Automated Safety System).
  • March 2016 – Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaparawi, Deputy Transport Minister: “Kejara to be implemented in May 2016 with AES and to be called the Automated Awareness Safety System”.

(The AES was implemented on a limited basis in September 2012, with a plan to place over 1,000 traffic cameras nationwide. The system didn’t last long after objections from here and there.)

In 2015 there was a statement to say that the AES would make a comeback under a government-owned company. The people behind the two original contractors must have laughed all the way to the bank after being compensated a cool MR60.12 million.

  • December 2015: Aziz was reported as saying that the AES would be extended nationwide but at that time, only 14 cameras were left standing throughout the country. And what was the original plan? Over 1,000 cameras on highways, state roads and major intersections. You bet that there will be big bucks waiting to be made again by some people to supply the cameras and supporting equipment/systems.

Lest some politicians and civil servants forget, major road intersections in Kuala Lumpur also had traffic cameras installed under the jurisdiction of the traffic police sometime in the late 90s (if the memory is still ok) but eventually one by one could not proceed with doing the job for a variety of reasons. It was not called the AES but in all intents and purposes, it was the same system. No one talked about how many million ringgit went down the drain this time.

Kejara or any system similar to it can only be effective if agencies involved in overseeing road traffic operate under a coordinated and integrated system. That’s the only way, but something we have never had.

A system can also never be effective if enforcement is lax.

According to the Perak traffic police, the bus responsible for the horrendous accident recently had been issued with 63 summons, including 49 for speeding. At that point of time, all the summonses had remained unpaid since 2011. That it got away with it is what makes the law an ass.

It thus appear that these agencies are moving parallel to each other and under a stop-start manner while those heavy vehicles continue to hit about 130 kilometres per hour when the limit for them is 90kmh.

No wonder one cannot catch the other!

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.