Better safe than very, very sorry

PEOPLE ask me if we can expect to see more law-abiding drivers now that the Automatic Enforcement System (AES) has been implemented. I think that although some motorists may be more cautious for fear of being caught on camera, for now, the impact of the AES is still negligible.

This is because the implementation of the AES, as of Sept 22, is in its pilot stage and involves only 14 cameras in Perak, Selangor, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur.

Of the 14 cameras which have gone live, 10, comprising six fixed units and four mobile ones, are for catching speedsters, while the remaining four are dedicated to catching those who beat the red lights. And since the locations of these cameras, except for a few mobile ones, are available to the public at the Road Transport Department’s website www.jpj.gov.my, I think there will be more “law-abiding motorists”, only in these 14 areas.

Hopefully, the number of traffic violations involving speeding and jumping traffic lights will decrease as more AES cameras go active, so the faster the full system is implemented, the better. When this is done, the AES will see cameras installed to cover a total of 831 accident hotspots throughout the country, where there has been a high incidence of road fatalities.

In all, a total of 566 speed cameras and 265 traffic light cameras will be set up at no cost to the government, as it will be errant drivers caught committing traffic offences who will ultimately be paying for the system.

This is because under the concessionaire agreements, a percentage of the fines collected over a five-year period will go to the two companies that are putting up the AES at a cost of between RM300 million and RM400 million each.

Some think these two companies will be laughing all the way to the bank, but as Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha says, “Why worry, if you are not a traffic offender? If everyone abides by the traffic rules, then there will be nothing for the companies to collect. So why enrich them?”

Makes sense? The aim of setting up the AES is to help reduce accidents, not for the government or anyone else to become rich through the collection of fines.

The main idea behind the AES is for it to be an effective deterrent, because it is impossible for the police to post traffic personnel at every traffic light junction around the clock. Thus, having these robot traffic cops in the form of the AES is to discourage motorists from committing serious traffic offences which may endanger lives.

But really, it’s shameful that civilised Malaysians need to have visible deterrents like policemen or traffic cameras to prevent them from committing traffic offences such as beating the red lights.

It should come from within every motorist to obey the traffic light signals, in short, it’s all a matter of attitude and a culture of compliance with the law.

That is why theSun has been running the “Red Means Stop!” campaign as part of our corporate social responsibility to reinforce and inculcate a culture of compliance with traffic rules.

As such, for the last two and a half years, week after week, theSun’s photographers have been going out in the sun (and probably cursing their editor) to capture on film errant motorists beating the lights. Fortunately for them, such incidents are still a common affair, so they don’t normally have to stay in the hot sun for too long.

To motorists in the habit of beating the lights, here is some food for thought: Even without the AES or visible police presence, your act of shooting through the red light may lead to a fatal accident – a poignant example being the horrific case in Singapore recently where a sports car shot through the lights at Victoria Street and Rochor Road into a taxi, killing several people. (See video footage at http://www.thesundaily.my/news/384245)

Should you kill someone by such reckless or dangerous driving, you may be charged under Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act and be liable upon conviction to no less than two years imprisonment, and a fine of between RM5,000 and RM20,000.

Man-made laws aside, even if you are prepared to go to jail for it, the bigger question is whether you can live with your conscience if you have blood on your hands – a contravention of God’s laws going by any religion. You would be responsible for the death of someone’s father, mother, wife, daughter or son.

Let’s get real. Saying “I am so very, very sorry” a million times will not bring back the life you have snuffed out through a simple, irresponsible act of running through the red lights.

Think about it. Drive safely because it’s better to be safe than very, very sorry.

Freddie Ng is managing editor at theSun. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com