BY Y S CHAN
TOP cop Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar says police are contemplating increasing compound fines for traffic offenders, because the number of accidents and traffice-related fatalities show no signs of falling.
This was despite “Op Selamat 8/2016” from Feb 1 to 16 to create safety awareness during the Chinese New Year season, with the theme “Rumah Selamat, Selamat Sampai Ke Destinasi.”
With one day to go, an average of 1,524 accidents was recorded daily since it was launched last Monday. This was a decline of 26 cases or 1.7 percent compared to an average of 1,550 accidents daily on normal days — a negligible difference in statistical terms.
According to police, the number of road fatalities daily dropped to 15 during this year’s operation. The usual average hovers around 18.
During Ops Selamat, motorists caught violating traffic laws had to pay the maximum fines with no discount given.
But motorists seemed undeterred by the maximum compound fine of RM300.
The Road Safety Department swiftly pointed out that raising the amount of compound fines alone would not be effective.
However, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the current rates are adequate — educating motorists on road safety, enforcement of the Kejara demerit point system and implementation of the Automatic Enforcement System (AES) would be more effective than higher fines.
Views expressed by members of the public on this issue were just as diverse as those articulated by the press in various reports, letters, columns and editorials.
It is high time for Malaysians to realise that there are no silver bullets for fixing many of the
intractable issues afflicting our country. Nonetheless, we are not short of ideas or ingenuity.
But even the best methods would fail miserably if implementation is weak or poor, which has always been the case for as long as I remember.
I received my first traffic summons in 1973 when one of the bulbs in a rear lamp of the limousine taxi I was driving blew.
I was passing through a Johor town on the way back to Kuala Lumpur after sending a couple of tourists to Singapore.
Next morning, I reported the matter to the office and examined the summons. I was shocked to discover that I was summoned to appear at the Johor town’s magistrate court the following day.
I went to the town’s police station to ask for direction to the magistrate court. An office clerk at the station smiled and said that he will have the summons quashed and asked RM10 from me, which I gladly gave.
Since then, my understanding of a summons is a notice served at the scene of traffic violation compelling the offender to appear before a magistrate on the date, time and court written down by the police officer.
However, police are authorised to impose compound fines of up to RM300 for minor offences, and nearly all offenders would prefer to have the summonses compounded instead of appearing in court.
I understand that those who did not have their summonses compounded or appeared in court would face arrest. If not, what is a summons?
Apart from summonses issued directly to offenders, the police and local authorities also issue notices of traffic offences such as speeding or illegal parking. Such notices are posted to the vehicle’s owner address requesting particulars of the driver of the car.
Most motorists, including the media and enforcement agencies, lump notices and summonses together and called them saman, sometimes using saman ekor for notices sent by post.
From September 2012 to August 2015, AES cameras installed at 14 locations captured evidence for 1.91 million notices to be issued, but 1.65 million amounting to RM495 million remained unpaid.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall issues more than a million traffic offence notices every year and almost 90 percent were unpaid last year. Similarly, there are millions of unpaid police summonses and notices.
Increasing the compound fines will not reduce traffic offences.
But it will induce traffic policemen to quote a higher figure to turn a blind eye after stopping traffic offenders.
Although the standard rates for many offences are much lower than the maximum compound fine, traffic policemen usually imply that the fine is RM300 for the offence just committed.
Some local authorities have sought the cooperation of the Road Transport Department (JPJ) to bar the renewal of road tax for vehicles with unpaid summonses or notices. But then again, many vehicles on our roads are without road tax and drivers without licences.
As of September last year, some 6.7 million drivers and motorcyclists reportedly were on the road
without valid licences throughout the country.
The root cause for such massive transgressions is there is no fear of being caught.
Lack of enforcement has allowed many motorists to commit traffic offences and get away with impunity.
Lack of arrests or barring of road tax has led to millions of traffic fines unpaid.
Lack of enforcement officers can now be overcome by the use of latest technology. The AES system was effective but dashboard mounted cameras (Dashcam) are even better.
Implementation of the AES was initially awarded to two concessionaires, which were expected to rake in big chunks of the profits, leading to a huge public outcry.
The next phase of AES is scheduled to roll out soon but the new concessionaire has made little effort to get public buy-in.
The cheapest and most effective way to get motorists to behave is the fear of being recorded by a Dashcam.
The police can set up a division to register participating private vehicles mounted with approved Dashcams, find a way for records of traffic offences to be transmitted swiftly and securely to them, and issue notices with proof to offenders.
The police should deploy more smart cameras fitted with the Automated Number Plate Recognition device, linked to the police crime department and JPJ records. Apart from unsettled fines, the system can detect stolen, unregistered and wanted vehicles.
If education can change the attitude of errant motorists, we have failed in the first place for not doing it earlier.
To change the behaviour of errant motorists, massive surveillance and swift action taken on offenders are crucial parts of the solution.
The Kejara system will remain toothless if demerit points are not deducted once traffic fines are paid.
In Malaysia, there are more than enough laws and systems in place. They only need to be implemented well and what better way than making full use of modern technology?
Motorists who participate in Dashcam surveillance will naturally behave well on the road and the number of street crimes, such as snatch thefts, would also be reduced as motorcyclists with fake or broken number plates know they are being recorded.