KUALA LUMPUR: As the nation reels from the worst road accident, the main question on everyone’s mind is: What will it take to stop the carnage on the roads?
Monday’s tragedy at Km229 of the North-South Expressway near Bukit Gantang, which claimed 20 lives and injured nine, has resulted in more recommendations being made.
But readers and industry sources say there is nothing wrong with the recommendations made earlier. They were spot on and workable. The question they ask is this: Why have the recommendations not been implemented?
If earlier recommendations had been implemented, would a bus driver with a string of traffic offences been allowed to drive? And would a 20-year-old bus be deemed roadworthy?
Last year alone, there were 6,400 fatalities and about 300,000 accidents. Out of that, 9,700 accidents and 39 fatalities involved buses.
Recommendations have been made over the years. And they continue to be made. But none of them, say industry sources, had addressed the main problem — the lack of enforcement. This has made the recommendations ineffective.
In the next few days, the authorities will try hard to come up with answers. Already, fingers are being pointed at the driver and the weak structure of the bus.
Today, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy will submit a working paper to the cabinet on more recommendations. He will also point out weaknesses in the current system.
This will include the Kejara demerit point system where points are only deducted when summonses are settled, the issue of poorly assembled buses, tightening of regulations involving bus drivers and improving operations of bus companies.
"If the cabinet agrees, the ministry will implement the recommendations," Chan said.
On Monday, he warned the relevant agencies to get cracking on the refresher course programme for drivers. The course is to help the ministry gauge the aptitude and the mental and physical state of bus and lorry drivers.
What was said after...
Kuala Lipis bus crash (2003): 14 killed, 26 injured
1. Recommendation: Send drivers for refresher course. Status: Not implemented.
2. Recommendation: Two drivers in each express bus. Status: Implemented but poorly monitored.
3. Recommendation: Punish bad drivers with higher insurance premiums. Status: Not implemented.
4. Recommendation: Drivers to undergo medical check-ups once every six months. Status: Implemented but carried out once a year due to high cost.
5. Recommendation: Suspend bus operator's permit if driver found to have caused an accident. Status: Partially implemented. Several bus drivers were suspended.
6. Recommendation: Drivers and passengers to fill in a report on the problems they faced. Status: Implemented for several months but discontinued.
7. Recommendation: Drivers not to drive for more than eight hours continuously. Status: Implemented but poorly monitored.
8. Recommendation: New guidelines for commercial vehicle drivers. Status: Implemented: Second driver introduced, drivers allowed maximum journey of eight hours and rest every two hours.
Nibong Tebal bus crash (July 2006): 11 killed, 35 injured on their way to St Anne's Feast
1. Recommendation: Drivers to undergo mandatory refresher courses once every three years. Status: Not implemented.
2. Recommendation: Special centres to be set up nationwide to train drivers. Status: Not done as refresher course programme was still pending.
Recommendations after the Bukit Gantang crash (Aug 13, 2007): 20 killed, 9 injured
1. Drivers to undergo mandatory refresher course.
2. Tighten rules for drivers and implement same checks as carried out on airline pilots.
3. Safety briefing for passengers before journey begins. Just like in planes.
4. Build railway tracks to connect more towns. Rail travel is safer.
5. All passengers to wear safety belts.
6. Drivers must be in good mental and physical health.
7. Drivers not to drive continuously for eight hours.
8. All highways and expressways to be lit up.
9. Improve quality of locally assembled buses.
10. Hiring more foreign drivers.