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OP SELAMAT: Don't let the rush and excitement of the holiday season make you careless
SO, everyone is already in the Hari Raya Aidilfitri mood. Some have already balik kampung while others are doing so at the last minute hoping that the roads and highways will be less congested. Ah, to celebrate the Eid with kith and kin in one's kampung. There's nothing more joyous than that.
During most festive seasons, we would see an exodus of people from Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam. That's because most residents in the Klang Valley are from other towns or states.
In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, with thousands of people in a rush to get to their out-of-the-city destinations, concern for road safety is usually overlooked.
Although fatal accidents occur on known killer stretches, human error caused by carelessness, speeding or plain fatigue because of the long and arduous journey back to kampung, is as much to be blamed.
Conspiring to make the situation hazardous for motorists on their balik kampung ritual are congestion on the roads and highways for kilometres on end. Another cause is the unroadworthiness of vehicles.
It's the same thing every time. There have been advertisements on radio and television to remind people going back to kampung to stay safe on the road.
And then there's the road safety campaign-- Op Sikap -- launched during every festive season. The campaign has been helpful. But how do you teach incorrigible and simply bad motorists?
No matter how often these campaigns are held or reminders are issued, there will always be people who never learn or care to.
Op Sikap was first launched in 2001 to promote and instil awareness among road users about safety because of the alarming number of accidents during the festive season. This Hari Raya, the police are not just focusing on road safety but also on crime prevention, and are calling it Op Selamat.
Bukit Aman internal security and public order director Datuk Wira Salleh Mat Rasid was quoted as saying that Op Selamat took into account two factors -- road safety and crime prevention -- compared with Op Sikap, which focused more on just road safety.
Under this operation, Salleh said there would be increased police presence in identified hot spots as well.
I'll say one thing. Never before has the concern for personal safety and security at home and outside been so palpable among so many people, so much so we hear radio DJs talking about the subject on a regular basis.
Commercials on radio and television have also been reminding homeowners who will be away for Hari Raya to take necessary measures to burglar-proof their homes. How horrible it must be to come home, after a glorious Eid celebration in kampung, and find your castle violated -- burgled and ransacked.
Homeowners are reminded to not let the rush and excitement of the holiday season make them careless in protecting their home from criminals.
Concern for road safety and the safety of one's home is not peculiar to Malaysia.
The police and the councillors of New York City, for instance, have updated their Holiday Traffic Plan, a series of Gridlock Alert Days and street closures designed to make holiday travel as smooth as possible during the heavy traffic days from Thanksgiving through New Year's.
Gridlock Alert Days are a designated number of days during the holiday season when significant vehicle traffic is expected.
But, unlike in the United States, we don't have the police advising publicly for people to not drink and drive. In the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, for instance, reminding people to not drink and drive is first on the list of holiday road safety tips.
In Ontario, Canada, there are police and the Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere (R.I.D.E.) programmes out in full force, with similar programmes operating in other provinces to check against drink driving. As for protecting one's home during the festive season, it is the same elsewhere.
In the US, for instance, the Christmas holidays are known to be the favourite time for burglars so people are often reminded to take precautions to protect their homes.
For a great many of us, there is no compromise on our safety and that of our families, on the road, at home or elsewhere.
Let's hope for happy stories this festive season -- fewer road fatalities, violent crimes and home burglaries and invasions.
Selamat Hari Raya, everyone.