By Ahmad Sayuthi
THE Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960 will always be remembered as that dark period in our history where violent deaths were frequent.
During this period, 11,053 people were killed, covering the government forces, communist terrorists and civilians. That’s an average of 921 people a year, with many more injured.
Unfortunately, in these times of supposed peace, there has been no respite from violent deaths.
The main source is our killer roads – the backdrop of thousands of deaths each and every year for the past few decades.
Last week, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai revealed that 7,152 people had died in road accidents in 2016. That is seven times the average yearly number of casualties from during the Emergency period!
The statistics compiled by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) over a period of almost two decades lead to a very disturbing conclusion – far too many of our fellow humans had died or were seriously injured over the years.
As things now are, an average 1,300 crashes occur every day, with 30 people dying or seriously injured. And this will most likely continue until we, collectively as road users, decide that enough is enough and do what’s required to significantly reduce this trend. The encouraging fact is that, we can.
In that announcement by the Transport Minister, he also stated that 80.6% of those deaths had been due to human error.
And this is precisely where we must focus our attention and effort towards – a significant reduction in aspects related to human error will then prevent a significant number of people dying or being injured.
This is something we must constantly and consistently strive towards for it will also mean the prevention of extreme trauma, sorrow and hardship that would inevitably follow every time accidents happen.
If we are to contribute towards taking the edge off our killer roads, we need to start with ourselves first.
All too often we tend to see “others” as being irresponsible – the over-speeding drivers, swerving and suddenly changing lanes, not signalling, jumping traffic-lights and a host of other acts. Then those motorcyclists who seem to have a death wish, darting in and out and suddenly getting into your lane. Incidentally, 63% of the road accident deaths last year involved bikers.
All of the above certainly contribute towards incidents and the ensuing injuries and deaths. But for a start, just make sure we ourselves aren’t among those “others”.
We may well be competent, responsible and experienced motorists but we are never perfect. There is always room for improvement. Humility and the willingness to learn and self-assess will go a long way towards this.
In this article published by Cars, Bikes and Trucks, Miros director-general Professor Dr Wong Shaw Voon had highlighted some of the most common causes of road accidents.
It would do well for us to take note of what experts and try to comply with what they recommend. And then try to educate and encourage those we have influence over to do the same.
This will create a virtuous cycle where ever more road users become more aware and committed towards making our roads safer.
However, there are limits in what we could reasonably do to prevent accidents. Especially those that are defined as “anything that happens suddenly or by chance without an apparent cause”.
In retrospect and upon investigation and analysis, we would often know the cause of individual incidents. But these will still happen despite the efforts made.
With this possibility in mind, it is only prudent for us to take steps to ensure the chances of surviving are higher.
Regrettably, many people did not do enough despite having the ability to do so, and resulting in deaths that could have been avoided.
The recent horrific accidents throughout the country show that some critical lessons from the past were not learned and implemented.
For instance in the accident involving an MPV near the Chukai Toll Plaza in Kemaman last month where six people including children were killed.
Less than two weeks later, an even more horrific accident occurred in Pagoh, Muar where 14 people died.
There were other fatal accidents before and after but the point to note is this: many of the victims might have survived if only they had buckled up.
In a celebrity-obsessed world, practically everyone who was old enough would remember the accident involving Princess Diana in 1997.
She and three others were in a Mercedes-Benz W140 chassis – a car rated by some to be “an over-engineered and the best model ever by Mercedes” of which the manufacturer had not spared any expense in designing and producing.
But despite the car’s superior safety features, three people were killed – Diana, her companion and the driver. Her bodyguard had suffered serious injuries but he survived, albeit months in a hospital.
Tellingly, the official investigations revealed that none of the occupants had used their seat belts.
Unfortunately, as shown in many of the fatal accidents that later happened in Malaysia, this very critical need to buckle up was repeatedly ignored.
In the Kemaman accident, it was reported that the victims were flung out of the vehicle. The same had happened in the Pagoh accident where some of those who died had either been flung out or had hit some solid object inside the bus upon impact.
In the accident involving Princess Diana, the car’s speed was estimated at `only’ 105 km/h, which is actually slower than the speeds that we routinely see and experience on our roads.
Which goes to show that it doesn’t require exceptionally high speeds for the mechanics of momentum and impact to come into play and result in a tragedy.
If these incidents still do not convince us about the need to always buckle up, then nothing will. If we already know how critical it is and have always adhered to this, we can do a big favour and possibly helping to save lives by educating and gently persuading others to do the same.
Unfortunately, there will always be irresponsible drivers and motorcyclists who intentionally ignore the various rules and regulations relating to road usage and safety.
Worse, their actions might result in innocent people being killed or injured. Since this is beyond the average person’s ability to do something about, it is therefore essential for the authorities to do their part and take action against those responsible.
The Road Transport Department (RTD) had recently warned that those who commit any of the seven major traffic offences specifically listed under its Chinese New Year Strategic Op 2017 would be hauled to court.
It remains to be seen how effective the department will be in enforcing these regulations, not just during this period but also throughout the year.
With some people, only consistent and firm action by the authorities would ever deter them from continuing with their irresponsible ways.
Too many of our fellow Malaysians had died in road accidents. Add up all the casualties over the years and we can see the scale of the tragedy that is happening on our roads.
It is therefore not an exaggeration or over-dramatization to equate the present state of things as The New Emergency.
Nor is it acceptable for us to just shrug and resign ourselves into accepting these casualties without doing more – much more – to help set things right.
Because life is simply too precious.