Hundred of families lost their loved ones to road accidents yearly and the statistics keep increasing with each report of road safety campaign made public.
During the recent 24th Ops Sikap, Sarawak recorded 289 deads – an increased of 62 persons compare to Ops Sikap 22 which saw only 227 deads.
The figures were provided by the director of Road Safety Department (JKJR) Rano Alwino Aka to the press recently.
The statistics revealed that Bintulu’s yearly accidents record was among the highest in the country.
Bintulu police chief Supt. Madang Usat said that during the Ops Sikap operation, the town recorded 85 road accidents and a total of 785 summonses issues.
Rano Alwino blamed the high fatality rate on the people’s negative attitude and drivers being discourteous.
In fact, about 40% of drivers thought they could get away even if they broke the laws.
A recent nationwide study on road saftey done by Dr Haslinda Abdullah, a senior lecturer at Faculty of Human Ecology, Department of Social and Development Science at Universiti Putra Malaysia, supported Rano’s assertion.
“There are many factors that can cause road accidents, but human behaviour or people attitudes is the most common cause in many accidents we studied,” she said.
She also said other factors such as road conditions were also among the highest contributing factors.
“Physical condition of the roads like potholes, poor construction or maintenance will effect drivers’ behaviour and their vehicle handling.
“On better roads people will drive faster, on poor road although slower they tend to be impatient, inconsiderate, overtaking dangerously – which can lead to an accident.
Dr Haslinda said there was a need for better signage along the roads, pointing out that those along the Miri-Bintulu coastal stretch needed upgrading.
“At certain stretch I could see road sign that indicate speed limit of only 50km, whereas the road are wide and nicely tar-sealed, so people tend to drive faster than the speed limit.
“And along uneven stretches after the Samalaju junction towards Niah, I saw several signs indicating the speed limit is 70km.
“This is hardly useful to road users and can confuse them,” she said.
Entrepreneur Dr Eli Luhat pointed to the general poor condition of Sarawak roads, particularly those in the rural areas.
“Even a state senior minister said the road to my longhouse in Sungai Asap, Belaga is unsafe. To me it’s a death trap. I personally lost several friends and relatives along that road before.
Dr Eli who is Sungai Asap-Koyan Road Safety Committee chairman said the authorities must monitor rural road conditions regularly and make immediate repairs wherever possible.
According to Dr Eli, from his 15-years’ experience working as safety officer for Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC), he believes the fatality rate along the Bintulu-Bakun road is much higher.
“In the logging industry fatality rate is about 3 person per 1000 cubic meter. I bet the fatality rate for the Bintulu-Bakun road (which also lead to Sungai Asap) is higher than that,” he said.
Asked for suggestions on viable solutions to the road safety issue, particularly in Sarawak, Dr Haslinda said: “Much of the road accidents were avoidable if drivers were alert, being sensitive to their surrounding.”
Dr Haslinda said she was advocating a holistic one – educating road users from an early age on the importance of safe driving while the authorities must effectively enforce all available laws.
She also not in favour of limiting the vehicle’s age limit, saying “It all boils down to maintenance”.
“Maybe a mandatory yearly inspection of all cars, old and new, could be of some help. Because the way some people mishandle their cars, even a two-year old car can be worse than a 20-year-old one.”