Licence suspension not enough - Road safety experts on surge in heavy vehicle accidents

KUALA LUMPUR: More initiatives outside the scope of suspending licences of errant heavy vehicle drivers are needed to reduce traffic accidents, road safety experts said.

This comes after data from an expert revealed that road accidents involving large vehicles are becoming increasingly rampant with the crash rate involving buses standing at 140 incidents per 1,000 buses.

Road Safety Research Centre head Associate Professor Dr Law Teik Hua said the figure far surpasses the crash rates for passenger cars and motorcycles.

The crash rates, he said, involved 60 cases per 1,000 cars and 10 cases per 1,000 motorcycles.

He said it is imperative to undertake several measures to enhance road safety and address the issue of irresponsible drivers.

"Firstly, there should be a restructuring of the employment framework for express bus drivers, ensuring they are held accountable and traceable.

"Additionally, an increase in their remuneration to a reasonable and attractive level can serve as an incentive for better compliance with regulations and responsible driving behaviour.

"These adjustments will enable policy authorities to monitor drivers and mitigate risks associated with road safety effectively," he told the New Straits Times.

Yesterday, it was reported that 14 express bus drivers are facing suspension on their licence for failing the drug screening test conducted by the Road Transport Department.

Although acknowledging its necessity, Law believes that simply suspending licenses may not constitute an effective solution.

"Certainly, increasing operations nationwide is crucial. One effective strategy could involve establishing and publicising a Bus Safety Performance Index, which evaluates the safety standards of bus operators' services.

"Conducting these assessments discreetly, without the operators' prior knowledge, enhances result accountability.

"This approach provides the public with accurate information to make informed decisions regarding their choice of bus services.

"Consequently, bus operators would be incentivised to enhance their safety standards to remain competitive and ensure passenger safety," he said.

Meanwhile, Selangor Road Safety Council member Tengku Ahmad Marwan Tengku Mahmud suggested that operators should be more meticulous in their process of selecting new drivers to work for them.

"A proper background check be it for criminal or traffic offences should be done with the police and Road Transport Department. A medical checkup from a government hospital should also be presented during the process.

"Furthermore, not forgetting the driving standards of our heavy vehicles should also be polished by reviewing our current drivers' training and testing, because road safety will only be able to improve if the quality or the standards of driving (competencies) are improving.

"Having just a driving licence will not make a driver safer."

He said suspending the licences alone may not be effective if the drivers lack proper education and awareness of rehabilitation programmes from the authorities.

"The drivers should go through that kind of "correctional" programme for traffic violations so that they understand the consequences of driving under the influence (DUI).

The operators also need to be educated on how to have a proper procedure for selecting new drivers to prevent such incidents from recurring in the future.

"Punishment alone without any education programme will not make our roads safer in the long run," he said.

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