Test erratic drivers routinely, not randomly as a preventive measure
ON AUG 15, the Road Transport Department reported that 58 motorcyclists and pillion riders were tested positive for drugs since the start of Op Selamat on Aug 12. On Monday, we learned that 46 express bus drivers were added to the statistics. For now, that's all we know about those driving under the influence of drugs during the current Hari Raya holidays. We also know that random urine tests for drugs are a feature of the spot checks in the "integrated" operations during the festive seasons. Though it is comparatively safer to travel by bus, as the safety of passengers is at stake, the targeting of those behind the wheel of long-distance buses is understandable. And so is the crackdown on motorcyclists. Figures show that they contribute disproportionately to the numbers who die on the road.
But as the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations chief executive officer Datuk Paul Selvaraj rightly said, "we should not wait for festive seasons to check whether our bus drivers and vehicles are safe". This observation should certainly apply when it comes to spotting drivers under the influence of drugs, whether they are behind the wheel of a bus, motor cycle, car, van, lorry or trailer. For sure, there does not appear to be demonstrable proof that it is a major factor in fatal accidents in this country. But given the problem that we have with drug addiction in general and research in other countries which shows that an increasing number of road crashes are drug-related, this should be sufficient reason to take a zero tolerance approach to those who take the wheel in a chemically altered state.
In this regard, there is also a need to focus on driving under the influence of alcohol. Admittedly, drink driving does not appear to be a major cause of road accidents in this country as it is in many other countries. But as a recent study by the Sarawak Road Safety Council showed, it was certainly a key factor in the fatal crashes during Gawai Dayak last June. In any event, it is clearly unsafe and dangerous to drink and drive. As taking drugs and alcohol impairs and compromises a person's judgment, coordination and concentration on the road and increases the risk of accidents, it is time to test erratic drivers routinely rather than randomly as a preventive measure. There is also a need to trace drug and alcohol levels in investigations of serious and fatal accidents so that we have a clearer picture of the extent of the problem and are better able to design appropriate strategies.