No one cares, so more accidents and more deaths

Sunday, 20 April 2014

How many more accidents must happen and how many more lives must be lost before the government actually implements recommendations suggested by experts they appointed to look into the very matter?

What is the point of appointing an independent advisory panel or a royal commission of inquiry to conduct investigations and submit reports if you do not plan to use their recommendations? Or is the government just fond of wasting of time, money and resources?

A royal commission of inquiry on the police headed by former Chief Justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah in 2005 had recommended an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to monitor abuse of power in the police force. The police vehemently resisted this and the proposal never saw the light of day.

On Oct 29, 2013, the Transport Ministry appointed an independent advisory panel to evaluate and review investigation reports related to the nation’s worst bus crash at kilometre 3.6 Jalan Genting Highlands-Kuala Lumpur on Aug 21, 2013 which claimed 37 lives.

A 44-page report was produced by the panel, which found speeding to be the primary event that led to the bus crash, and posted on the Transport Ministry's website. Following the report, the panel proposed 51 recommendations to address the problems. However, the recommendations have yet to be adopted.

A fact independent advisory panel chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye is upset about.

“Officers in charge of land transport including bus operators should implement recommendations from the (Genting bus crash) report. The respective stakeholders should sit down together to discuss the next course of action. As far as I know, nothing has happened and we see one accident happening after another," Lee was quoted as saying.

He reportedly attributed the crashes to speeding, driver's lack of concentration and brake failure.

"Although the report was on the Genting crash, recommendations were meant for all hilly areas. We have also identified more than 50 accident hot spots." Lee said, adding that the report was made with the aim of preventing future bus accidents and to promote road safety.

"The ministry does not want anyone to die in vain any more, that was the reason why an independent advisory panel was formed," Lee said.

Three weeks after the Genting tragedy, a stage bus plunged down a ravine in Genting Highlands, killing one and injuring 17.

On Jan 19, 2014, three people were killed and 15 injured when an express bus lost control before hitting the road divider and overturning at KM 107.2 near Yong Peng of the North-South Expressway.

On April 12, 2014, three passengers were killed and 10 others injured when a Transnasional double decker bus they were in overturned at KM11 of Jalan Bentong-Raub.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi was quoted as saying the ministry had ordered the Road Safety Department and Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) to get to the bottom of the recent bus crash in Bentong.

"The ministry has been discussing recommendations made by the independent advisory panel in their report to avoid such tragedies from recurring and we will finalise it soon.

"Eighty per cent of these kinds of accidents occur due to human error such as driver's carelessness rather than mechanical failure, but in this particular case, we have to wait for the official report," he said.

Abdul Aziz added that some of the recommendations by the panel were being carried out even before the report on the Genting bus crash was released.

The executive summary of the independent advisory panel on the Genting tragedy which can also be found on Miros’ website, among others, says: “Recommendations have been formulated after comprehensive evaluation and review in order to avoid or minimize the occurrence and the outcomes of similar incidences and to improve the national road safety system holistically.

“In general, these recommendations are also applicable to other hilly roads and the identified “black spots” in the country. An implementation framework and an independent monitoring system shall be established to continuously evaluate and ensure all necessary actions, as recommended by the Panel, are implemented appropriately, seriously and timely by the respective agencies.”

What happened since then?

Abdul Aziz also said the government plans to make it mandatory for new express buses to provide seat belts to ensure the safety of passengers and foresees the plan to be implemented within five years. The move, said Abdul Aziz, would not involve existing express buses.

Why would it take five years for something as simple as seat belts, that too in new express buses, to be implemented? And what about passengers who travel in existing express buses? Isn’t their safety important too?

With the outpouring of grief over the death of Bukit Gelugor MP and veteran DAP leader Karpal Singh who was killed when the car he was travelling in collided with a five-tonne lorry near Gua Tempurung on the North-South Expressway on April 17, one hopes this provides the impetus for something to be done.

Especially since attitude towards road safety in Malaysia was also one of the contributory factors identified by the panel in the Genting bus tragedy.

A very important fact since both Karpal’s accident and the Bentong bus tragedy had one thing in common: both the drivers of the heavy-duty vehicles involved in the accidents had tested positive for drugs.

How many more accidents must happen and how many more lives must be lost before the government actually implements recommendations suggested by experts they appointed to look into the very matter?

Or is the typical knee-jerk reaction to tragedies and accidents going to be the order of the day?


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