KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 ― Last year, according to police statistics, out of the 7,152 people who died in road accidents, 4,484 (62.7 per cent) of them were motorcyclists.
The high number of fatalities involving motorcyclists does not come as a surprise considering that motorcycles make up half the vehicles on Malaysian roads.
Being the preferred transport mode for those in the middle and lower-income groups, the option of introducing new regulations to impose tighter control on the number of motorcycles on our roads is not something the government may be willing to consider unless it is forced to as various parties may potentially resist such a move.
New Car Assessment Programme for Southeast Asian Nations (Asean NCAP) secretary-general Dr Khairil Anwar Abu Kassim said any proposal to introduce specific regulations to check the rising fatality rate among motorcyclists would have to be studied carefully and in a rational manner.
“These days, motorcycles are not just used by the lower-income group but also by others who find it more convenient to ride their bikes to work or to go to the shops or mosque when the roads are congested,” said Khairil Anwar, who is also head of Asean NCAP Operationalisation Unit at the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) Director-General's Office.
Motorcyclists face higher risk
He was commenting on newspaper reports quoting Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor as saying earlier this year that the government was considering banning underbone motorcycles, a class of small motorcycles known locally as “kap chai”, from entering Kuala Lumpur as part of the efforts to reduce carbon emission and traffic congestion, as well as reduce snatch thefts.
While acknowledging that the motorcycle-only lanes on certain highways have led to fewer accidents involving the two-wheelers, Khairil Anwar said constructing similar lanes on all roads and highways would entail high costs.
“This is why it's important for all road users to know what their responsibilities are when they are on the road. Motorcyclists, in particular, should wear brightly-coloured clothes and ensure that their bikes' lights and brakes are functioning well,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the 39th ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) Consumer Policy Committee (COPOLCO) Plenary Meeting here, recently. The theme of the meeting was Safer Roads and Cars.
Khairil Anwar said motorcyclists must realise that they are sharing the road with other vehicles and that they faced a much higher risk of injury or death as motorcycles have limited safety features.
“The riders must know that riding a two-wheeler is not the same as driving a four-wheel vehicle.
“Moreover, 50 per cent of the vehicles on Malaysian roads consist of motorcycles. In other countries like Vietnam, motorcycles outnumber other vehicles at 90 per cent so it's less likely there for motorcyclists to be knocked down by a bigger vehicle,” he said.
Police statistics show that 521,466 road accidents occurred last year compared to 489, 606 in 2015. There was a total of 6,570 fatal accidents in 2016 compared with 6,193 in the previous year.
The number of people who died in road accidents increased from 6, 706 in 2015 to 7,152 in 2016. According to Miros, motorcyclists make up the highest number of road accident victims and fatalities every year.
Higher safety standards
Meanwhile, in his keynote address at the ISO COPOLCO meeting titled “Road Safety By Design: Asean NCAP Experience”, Khairil Anwar said the NCAP initiative was aimed at providing safety information of vehicles to the public via objective, transparent and independent full-scale crash testings.
(Asean NCAP is an automobile safety rating programme jointly established by Miros and international organisation Global New Car Assessment Programme in December 2011.)
He said such information would enable consumers to make a more informed choice and recognise the additional efforts taken by the car manufacturers concerned to produce safer vehicles.
“While regulatory requirements set a minimum compulsory standard (for car safety), NCAP is concerned with the best possible practices. Compared with the regulatory requirements, NCAP has higher performance requirements,” he said.
Khairil Anwar said the Global Plan for the UN (United Nations) Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020) has identified five pillars for its “safe systems” approach, namely capacity building, safer roads and mobility, safer vehicles, safer user behaviour and post-crash response.
He said although safety has become the highest priority for car manufacturers in Asean, there were still a number of older models on the road that do not meet the required safety standards.
“Some old cars are not roadworthy but they are still required (by their owners) for their day-to-day activities,” he said.
Enhance consumer access to safety information
The UN encourages its member states to apply and promulgate motor vehicle safety standards as developed by its World Forum for the Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations.
Khairil Anwar said the world body also encouraged the implementation of new car assessment programmes all over the world, as well as enhance consumers' accessibility to information on the safety performance of motor vehicles.
“The UN encourages all new motor vehicles to be equipped with seat belts and anchorages that meet regulatory requirements and pass applicable crash test standards (as minimum safety features).
“It also encourages global deployment of crash avoidance technologies with proven effectiveness, such as Electronic Stability Control and Anti-Lock Braking systems in motorcycles.”
Khairil Anwar said the UN also suggested that incentives be provided to manufacturers to produce vehicles that provide higher levels of protection to road users.
“It also wants (governments) to sustain investments in research and development of safety technologies that will improve vehicle safety and reduce risks to vulnerable road users.
“The government and private sectors are also encouraged to purchase and maintain vehicles that offer advanced safety technologies and high levels of occupant protection,” he added. ― Bernama