Safety first at all times

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

MALAYSIA for­tu­nately does not lie within the so-called “Ring of Fire” ge­o­graph­i­cal zone which faces the threat of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters like earth­quakes and vol­canic erup­tions that can cause mas­sive loss of lives.

But un­for­tu­nately the coun­try is prone to an­other form of dis­as­ter, the man-made ones, which bring about equally tragic con­se­quences.

The num­ber of peo­ple killed in road crashes year in and year out is stag­ger­ing to say the least – among the high­est in the world pop­u­la­tion­wise – cer­tainly a record all Malaysians should be ashamed of.

One of the causes for this is that there are far too many mo­tor ve­hi­cles in our midst, per­haps the high­est per pop­u­la­tion, too.

There are more than 11 mil­lion mo­tor­cy­cles and 12 mil­lion cars on our roads and via this col­umn over the years I’ve of­ten high­lighted con­cerns es­pe­cially of us be­ing in the sit­u­a­tion of hav­ing too many mo­tor­cy­cle-re­lated deaths.

An av­er­age of over 4,000 mo­tor­cy­clists die ev­ery year and they make up over 65% of road fa­tal­i­ties.

Care­less­ness or a low level of safety con­scious­ness ram­pant among road users is with­out doubt a ma­jor cause for the loss of lives that’s cer­tainly a drain on Malaysia’s hu­man re­source and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Road ac­ci­dents cost the coun­try some RM7.8 bil­lion an­nu­ally, not to men­tion un­told mis­ery, grief and suf­fer­ing to those who lost their loved ones and bread­win­ners in these tragedies.

And when we talk of mo­tor­cy­cles, the young are the big­gest vic­tims be­cause it’s a Malaysia phe­nom­e­non that they take to the two-wheel­ers like ducks to water.

In the last few months, there has been a se­ries of tragic road crashes.

The lat­est one hap­pened last Sun­day in Kuantan when a buggy ploughed into spec­ta­tors killing a man and his five-year-old daugh­ter. His wife and son were in­jured.

Visu­als of the race that went vi­ral show how shock­ingly bizarre the al­most to­tal ab­sence of safety con­scious­ness among the or­gan­is­ers and the spec­ta­tors. Bizarre, in fact, is an un­der­state­ment.

The race was held on a street cir­cuit with only plas­tic bar­ri­ers sep­a­rat­ing the speed­ing bug­gies from the spec­ta­tors! How on earth such a venue was cho­sen in the first place and with­out proper crowd con­trol is mind bog­gling.

What kind of safety are we talk­ing about when only plas­tic bar­ri­ers, the type that we see for traf­fic di­ver­sion, were used?

As usual there’s been a lot of fin­ger-point­ing in the af­ter­math of this tragedy. It would be easy to de­ter­mine the causes of the crash with­out the need for lengthy in­ves­ti­ga­tions. It’s all cap­tured in the videos.

Ac­cord­ing to go-kart­ing ac­tivist Nik Iruwan Nik Izani, the bug­gies used in the race were meant to be built by en­gi­neer­ing students of Univer­siti Te­knologi Malaysia for ed­u­ca­tional pur­poses and not for rac­ing.

“The cars are built by students us­ing just scrap au­to­mo­tive parts where they utilise their en­gi­neer­ing knowl­edge to im­prove the ve­hi­cles and test their achieve­ments based on per­for­mance data, not rac­ing.

“The pur­pose of such ve­hi­cles is never to test driv­ing skills. The very or­gan­i­sa­tion of such ve­hi­cles into a race for­mat is wrong and those re­spon­si­ble should be held ac­count­able,” he said.

Re­fer­ring to an of­fi­cial’s re­mark that all safety pre­cau­tions had been taken, Nik Iruwan, who runs a kart­ing de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme, said: “What safety pre­cau­tions? The track it­self was not safe. To be­gin with, those ve­hi­cles were not meant for rac­ing.”

Can the or­gan­is­ers ex­plain what were they try­ing to prove by hav­ing such a race? Prompt ac­tion ought to be taken against such reck­less­ness.

And in the mean­time, some form of im­me­di­ate as­sis­tance ought to be ren­dered to the vic­tims’ sur­viv­ing fam­ily mem­bers who are re­cov­er­ing from the trauma of it all.

Com­ments: let­ters@the­sundaily. com

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