(There is always a limit to everything we do and a limit to speeding is there for obvious reasons. Slow down and you will live longer. Some idiots would never learn no matter what happens when one speeds over the speed limit on the highway)
Driving on Malaysian highways often promises a good story for this blog and it is the case for this week and one that deal with speed demons on highways. About 9 years ago, I had a close encounter with a speed demon and a recent trip north saw another close encounter with another speed demon.
But first read this first:-
At least 37 people were killed when a bus in a mountainous area of Malaysia plunged into a ravine on Wednesday, the country’s Bernama news agency said, citing rescue officials. There also were 16 people injured, and they were sent to hospitals, the report said.
There were 53 people on board. Among the dead were Bangladeshi, Thai and Chinese nationals. The bus driver also died. The bus was descending from Genting Highlands when it fell into a 200-feet-deep ravine, Bernama reported. The incident occurred near the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Back in August last year, the country saw one of the worst accident relating to express buses. Before that, back in 2011, there was another horrible accident involving express/tour buses where 28 people perished. And beginning this year when it comes to express buses, it was not good news either:-
Three people died and at least 14 injured when an express bus they were travelling in crashed at KM107.2 of the North-South Expressway, from Pagoh to Yong Peng today. The bus driver was believed to have lost control of the vehicle, causing it to crash into a railing and landing at the side of the highway at about 2pm.
The Star Online reported that the bus was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Johor with 17 passengers, including a number of foreigners. Two men and a 10-year-old boy were killed while seven passengers suffered serious injuries.
Last weekend, we had to do a quick trip up North and it was sort of a last minute decision.
My mother in law was not well and my wife despite postponing the call to go and visit her somehow knew that time was up to visit her mother. So instead of going during CNY when one can expect sheer madness on highways, we decided to go one week earlier and come back the very next day. The highway was almost empty and we actually had empty tables at the famed R&R. There was the usual big bike convoys dominating the fast lane and having little care for the 110 km/h speed limit. The same went to Singapore registered cars – they were driving on the fast lane like they were on a private race track. The same also went to those with luxury car where the RM300 ticket for speeding would hardly made any dent on their pockets.
It was not the first time I encounter them but I seriously think that some of the idiots who uses the highway should be barred from using vehicles for life. I mean if they are bloody ignorant of the law, then at least they should have some common sense. They would either drive above the speed limit like their back is on fire (or hog the fast lane) and when confronted with another faster vehicle, they would dash into the slower lane without sense of space or the courtesy to put on the indicators to warn the slower traffic on the left. Some would cut in too close for comfort, completely ignoring the fact that there is another vehicle on the slow lane.
Then towards Ipoh, we saw something that left us speechless. There was a car overtook us on the fast lane and I know it was driven above the speed limit (I was already driving at 110 km/h then). Following just behind that speeding car is a police car but that too is driven above the speed limit. Well, I am fine with that but what irked me was that the police did nothing to pull over the speeding car and give the driver a speeding ticket. Perhaps the policeman had a bad stomach ache and rushing to the nearest toilet. Perhaps. But then again, it sends the wrong message and if the enforcement agencies keeps one eyes closed, you can be assured that there would not be the end of fiery deaths on the highway.
The stay with the in-laws was pretty short (it usually do, ha ha) but enough for me to take a good break for the trip back. My wife had fulfilled her part of the obligation and that was good enough, at least for now. The next day as usual we decided to leave early to KL. My sister in law and her 2 year old daughter followed us back and since there was plenty of space in my car, we were more than happy to accommodate them. I hardly drove more than 90 km/h and kept to the 110 km/h speed limit at certain part of the highway. And with a good selection of songs in my flash drive, it was a relaxing ride back.
(It took mere minutes for these 2 buses – there is another in front of this bus – to disappear from my sight despite we were traveling at about 110 km/h)
Some kilometers before Behrang (about 11.20 am on Sunday), I noticed something on my rear mirrors – not one but two speeding high deck express buses (High deck just like the high deck bus where 28 people died back in 2011). Knowing on how they usually fly through on the fast lane (and sometimes on the slow lane, adding the risks to other road users), I maintained on the middle lane and I was already cruising at 100 – 110 km/h. The first bus (Aeroline) bus flies through on the slow lane and quickly cut into the middle lane, a few paces in front of me. The second bus came right behind my car in the middle lane and started to flash his headlights (if we has stopped, I would bashed his head for coming up so close, endangering me and my family and flashing his headlights like a big dirty bully). He was trying to bully me to move over from the middle lane but since it was not safe to move over, I continued to drive on the middle lane, hoping that the idiot would move over on the fast lane. After all, he was faster than me – both buses was flying at about 140 km/h!
I got my son to snap some photos to be passed over to JPJ (hopefully they will blacklist these drivers) whilst I concentrated on driving. And I was quite angry too. Not only the idiots were endangering me and other road users with their deadly driving, they were also endangering the passengers. But the, when I went to Aeroline’s website, I read the biggest joke from the company titled “Safety”:-
AEROLINE coaches are built on high quality imported Scania (Sweden)chassis. AEROLINE operates its very own dedicated maintenance facility that is manned by experienced mechanics to maintain the coaches to our own standards, by using only quality parts.
Furthermore, each AEROLINE captain is hand picked and undergo regular training and monitoring. With the aid of system, our command centre is able to monitor the operation of each bus in real time, thus ensuring every journey a safe one.
Ya right, perhaps who ever wrote that “safety” statement should hand pick himself to take up a trip in their Aeroline buses where driving at more than 140 km/h and weaving in & out dangerously on a high deck buses meant nothing for these drivers. One wrong move weaving in and out of traffic or one tire blow out or encounter with one inexperienced driver and you will have another 20 – 30 passenger on the ditch and dead. No matter what the politicians, the bus company owners & management and the public may say after a tragedy, it will not bring back the dead. But unfortunately Aeroline is not the only bus company that I noticed speeding above the speed limit (but that does not mean they are not guilty of sheer recklessness). Another bus (from another bus company) just behind these Aeroline buses was also speeding at 140 km/h and was also weaving in and out of traffic. Within minutes, all these buses had disappeared from our sight as far as we can see up front.
And one main reason for this is because there is a serious lapse of enforcement. It is a fact that we fare badly when it comes to enforcement and it is not due to the laziness of the enforcement agencies. Sometimes the need for a stricter enforcement is curtailed, not by shortcomings of the enforcement agencies but rather due to the short sighted & (very, very) dumb politicians who flip-flops enforcement related policies on weak reasons and shout for all the wrong reasons.
This is where we have to relook into the implementation of the Automated Enforcement System (AES) on a larger scale. This is where also, rather unfortunately, the Pakatan fellows failed us miserably – yes, initially there seemed to be some “questions” in awarding the AES implementation to the private companies but that was not the main concern here. It was clear that the Pakatan politicians were barking on the wrong tree and had been asking all the wrong questions. The main concern is to ensure a strict adherence to the traffic rules and AES would have provided that unbiased, all weather, 24 x 7 automated enforcement that the other enforcement agencies may not been to able to provide effectively.
And now, nation wide AES implementation seemed to be on hold and that is allowing more idiots to break the traffic laws on a greater scale. They know that they cannot be caught (forget the yearly Ops Sikap – one, it is done during major holidays when the highways are packed thus reducing the opportunity to fly like you were on a race track and two, these drivers know that the police is out there in a greater force to nab these offenders) . That is why on other “non festival” days bus drivers like the above Aerobus drivers do not hesitate for a second to drive dangerously on the highways and endangering others on the road. Some unlucky ones end up killing their passengers and the whole vicious cycles starts again.
And there is another aspect of strict enforcement, ahem, since Najib been going around saying that the Government does not enough money for subsidies and what not. The more drivers nabbed for violation of traffic rules (and trust me, you will get a truckload of them without a sweat), the more fines can be collected and these money can be re-used for critical Government expenses (flying the fat lady overseas in private jets however does not count).
Just imagine that in the first 1 week of the AES in operation, it captured 63,558 offenses (an average of one offense every two-and-a-half minutes). Even if you use a modest RM50 fine per offense (speeding ticket will cost RM300), the Government can easily collect RM300,000 per week. Imagine how much they can collect on monthly basis. That is a lot of money that can be used again to beef up enforcement (more AES cameras) and make the roads safer again. Insurance claims has not been cheap as well – “net claims paid out for bodily injury and property damage due to road accidents in the first nine months of 2013 have risen to RM4.1 billion, compared to RM3.68 billion in the same period in 2012”.
We may have one of the best highways in the region (we still do) but we also have the 3rd world mentality when it comes to using them in the right way and in a safe way. You can be rest assured that you going to have more buses speeding above the speed limit and more deaths from unsafe speeding vehicles if attitude and enforcement does not change.
Please keep this mind as you balik kampung this Chinese New Year. Enjoy the holidays and have a plenty of rest.