Sort the problems out and cherish this life-saving deterrence to road accidents.
IN one month, the exodus out of the cities will start as millions go back to their hometowns to celebrate Hari Raya. The roads will be filled to the brim, the users will break traffic rules, there will be many who will flout the law and drive at breakneck speed, endangering their lives and those of others.
For the unfortunate few, relatively speaking that is, there will be grief at Hari Raya. Statistics show that over 200 lives will be lost during the festivities and many more injured. Thousands, who should be celebrating the end of Ramadan, the fasting month, will instead go into mourning.
Politicians at this time will exhort their constituents to be extra careful on the roads and reduce the fatalities, as if their exhortations will bear fruit. But at the same time, some of them endorse relaxing traffic rules and their enforcement, the only thing that offers deterrence to those who endanger lives on the roads.
It is a horrifying shock to me that there are quarters who are opposed to the imposition of traffic summonses via the post (the celebrated saman ekor) and that the Government is actually considering doing away with them. If they are caught on camera for an offence, what other evidence is needed?
When the rates of accident and fatalities on the roads in Malaysia are among the highest in the world, it is terribly, terribly difficult to understand how one can justify turning back a 10-year-old practice that has been successful in identifying 10 million offences!
I can understand that some of the offenders are peeved that the first time they know about the summonses is when they attempt to pay their road tax. Then they discover they have been blacklisted for not paying up for the past traffic offences.
But that must not imply that the process – and a very effective one at that – for catching traffic offenders be scrapped in favour of one that requires a summons to be issued on the spot by police and enforcement officers.
Strangely, the solution proposed by Umno Youth, whose leader Khairy Jamaluddin described saman ekor as unfair and did not give the right to motorists to defend themselves in court, was to scrap it.
Scrapping it means that the motorist or traffic offender has to be caught red-handed committing an offence by an officer who is in a position to stop or apprehend the offender and then issue a summons.
That is not only impossible most of the time, it is open to substantial abuses such as corruption. It causes traffic jams and poses a danger to motorists and other road users.
The effect of human intervention is also to favour some people and come down hard on others while there will be no such thing under an automatic, automated system which will catch all offenders irrespective of who they are – from the mighty politician to the lowly rakyat.
We must keep the existing saman ekor. If there are administrative deficiencies, we can easily sort them out by other means rather than scrapping them.
Countries throughout the world rely on this system to keep their road users on the straight and narrow. It is particularly useful in nabbing unsuspecting speeding offenders and speeding is one of the major killers on our roads. We must not compromise safety standards.
Complaints that offenders did not know about their offences are valid but the majority of them are likely to be excuses. It is incumbent upon vehicle owners to provide the right address on their registration cards. If they have, they would have received the summonses.
The police should only have to prove that they have posted and delivered the summonses to the addresses on the registration cards within a specified time period, say three months. This can be in the form of registered letters or courier services. If this is done, the public has little or nothing to complain about and must pay up.
For road safety to improve, there must be enormous deterrence for bad behaviour. Road users must be severely, fairly and uniformly penalised for traffic offences and there is really nothing better than saman ekor.
To do away with saman ekor is to contribute to the high rate of deaths on Malaysian roads and hobble the already overloaded police and other enforcement officers. It will set the clock back many years and deal a deadly blow to our efforts to reduce road kill.
It will be an insult to those who have died and will die on the roads during festive times, coming at this time when many make their way back to their kampung for Hari Raya.
Instead of cheering the saman ekor system, which has brought to book millions of traffic offenders and offered a real deterrent to road offences, we are now at the ludicrous crossroad of deciding whether to continue with the system.
It is testimony to the effectiveness of saman ekor that so many people are complaining about it – it is really beginning to hurt. Isn’t that what deterrence is about?
Three cheers for saman ekor!
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