Deaths due to ‘kap chai’ bikes at alarming rate, Miros says

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (left) and newly elected chairman of Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research Datuk Suret Singh at a press conference in Kajang February 4, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (left) and newly elected chairman of Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research Datuk Suret Singh at a press conference in Kajang February 4, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KAJANG, Feb 4 — The government and all stakeholders needs to prioritise the safety of motorcyclists safety especially those on “kap chai” bikes as the death toll reaches alarming heights, the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) said today,

According to the statistics provided by Miros, the death toll from roads in 2018 was 6282 out of which more than 4,000 were from kap chai bikes.

“More than 4,000 deaths per year ‘kap chai’ motorcyclists. The majority of them are between 15-25 years of age,” said Datuk Suret Singh when met at Miros headquarters in Kajang today for the handing over ceremony of him taking over as Miros chairman from Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye from tomorrow.

“These are young people who should've got married and be contributing to the country. Instead they are worrying where they can find the money to play for their medical bills.

“I get emotional when we talk about this. In a year were losing 4,000 of them in 10 years it’s 40,000. We’ve lost so many lives and when it’s a sole bread winner in a family of five the emotional; trauma the family goes through is unimaginable.”

The local slang ‘kap chai’ is believed to have originated as a portmanteau from Honda Cub, one such motorcycle, and the Cantonese word for “little”.

‘Kap chai’ bikes usually use small capacity engines between 50 and 150 cc, and are popular with Malaysians, especially the lower-income group due to its considerably cheaper price, and convenience in bustling traffic and rural trails alike.

According to police statistics, the rate of road deaths had dropped by 6 per cent (412 deaths) from 2016 to 2017 and then another 7 per cent in 2018 (456 deaths). The most vulnerable are motorcyclists.

Although the numbers are diminishing, Suret felt the dangers are still there for the death rate to increase again if steps aren’t taken to eradicate it.

He gave examples of how accidents happened — beating a red light, using one’s cellphone while on the road, tailgating other vehicles, not giving signals when changing lanes and not following the speed limit.

He said Transport Minister Anthony Loke is constantly bringing up the plight of motorists in cabinet and implores everyone to be part of the safety solution and not the problem.

“We have to think out of the box and it cannot be done by Miros alone it must involve everyone,” said Suret.

“We need to look at motorcycle design, road space, riders’ capabilities, road behaviour and effectiveness of current enforcement programmes and strengthen education initiatives to teach the public on proper road safety.

“When it comes to your safety it should always be self-enforced. Look at the how well the no smoking ban initiative was conducted by the Ministry of Health. It was done beautifully and it shows that Malaysian people are caring and will take to rules that involve their safety and health.”

The education ministry has already mooted an idea to teach road safety in schools. Both Lee and Serut are very welcoming of this idea stating it will help build better understandings on road safety, etiquette and make the public especially youngsters more considerate drivers from a young age.

Meanwhile Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, whose been chairman since 2015, steps down after today.

He brings with him nearly 40 decades of experience in the industry.