THE Hari Raya holidays have just passed and the results are out. As usual, the big numbers are still there, and are still disturbing. 2009’s Ops Sikap, the 20th one running since its start in 2001, saw 261 road deaths during this Aidilfitri period. On Sunday, 27 Sept, alone there were 23 fatalities on our roads. There were 208 fatalities recorded during Hari Raya in 2008 and 225 in 2007.
Ops Sikap, a campaign that usually runs for two weeks during festive holidays, typically aims to stop motorists from a host of road offences such as exceeding the legal speed limit and driving dangerously. But is Ops Sikap a real indication of how we drive?
Statistics on the government-run PanduCermat.org.my from 1998 to 2007 actually show a steady decrease in road-related figures. For example, there were 21,363 accidents (injuries) in 2007 compared with 49,953 in 1998. The fatalities index per 10,000 registered vehicles also dropped from 6.28 in 1998 to 3.7 in 2007. While the figures might still look bad to some, the fatality index was actually as high as 8.20 in 1996.
Despite the drop in death rates, however, there has still been a rise in traffic accidents with the increase of roads from 11,161km in 1974 to 71,814km in 2005. Vehicle ownership has also increased from 9.6 people per vehicle in 1974 to 1.7 people per vehicle in 2005. Do these figures suggest that our roads are better, or that our emergency services have improved over the years?
Some would argue that what truly counts is the way Malaysians drive during non-festive periods, because the statistics for festive periods might not be representative of overall trends. The Ops Sikap statistics from 2001 to 2008 show that there have been dips and increases which seem to hover around an average of 215 deaths during each festive season. This works out to an average of 14 deaths per day during each Ops Sikap in this period.
Aside from the six-day Ops Sikap in 2007 for Deepavali, it would seem that in the campaign’s nine-year existence, Malaysian drivers were most careful during 2003’s Chinese New Year (168 fatalities). Less than two months before that, though, there were 285 Hari Raya deaths in Dec 2002 — the highest number of fatalities in Ops Sikap history.
Without Ops Sikap, would these figures be higher? And should we base everything on these morbid data recorded during our celebrations? Our leaders certainly do, with Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein voicing his disappointment in the campaign’s results, and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairperson Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye calling for a review into Ops Sikap’s effectiveness.
Others, like M Bakri Musa, are appalled that Datuk Solah Mat Hassan, director-general of the Road Transport Department, is telling the public that according to statistics, the accident rate has actually declined. Bakri says the director-general must be misreading the statistics and only basing his conclusions on the annual and overall number of accidents and fatalities. The high increases during the holiday seasons must therefore be looked at seriously, Bakri says.
“To get a clearer picture of the impact of the heavy traffic of the holidays, he should be looking at the comparable two-week period immediately preceding and following the Ops Sikap. Unfortunately, neither his department nor the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety collects or publishes such figures,” he says on his website.
Is it a case of us needing more analytical data? Or are Malaysians just bad drivers? Many people would argue that more effective enforcement by the traffic police is needed to beat dangerous driving, and that education about road safety needs to be increased.
How would you describe Ops Sikap and the road safety situation in our country? Here are our thoughts, in six words:
Word association: Ops Sikap — death toll.
Still see lots of reckless drivers.
Real lives reduced to mere numbers.
So many Ops, people still die.
Better public transport, fewer road deaths?
More traffic police hiding behind trees.
Traffic jam? Road block? Ops Sikap!
Tukar sikap dua minggu tak cukup.
Pass road block. Tekan gas lagi.
I holiday-ed. I sped. I crashed.
Rendang in hospital — not the same.
Malaysian roads are all the rage.
“Pandu cermat” — mudah ditutur, sukar diturut.
Incentive: bigger ang pow for survivors.
The Nut Graph emphasises Selamat Aidilfitri.
Inspired by Ernest Hemingway‘s genius, the Six Words On… section challenges readers to give us their comments about a current issue, contemporary personality or significant event in just six words. The idea is to get readers engaged in an issue, while having fun and being creatively disciplined.
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