Havoc on the highways

ALL this talk about the authorities keeping tabs on speeding express buses and heavy vehicles on the highways is mostly hot air. I generalise but it appears that precious little is being done to check speeding by heavy vehicles on our roads.

The powers-that-be make the right sounds from time to time but has anything changed on highways?

I was in Malacca the other day and on my return late at night to Petaling Jaya, I suddenly spotted this huge blur on my left.

In a split second, an express bus had raced past me on the wrong side, at breakneck speed for a bus (I was doing 110kph or thereabouts).

It sped off into the night before I could look for the name of the company that owns it. I did not want to chase the speedster lest I break the speed limit.

By the way, I detest night driving for the aforesaid reason besides fast cars tailgating you as you try to overtake another vehicle at a speed allowed by law.

I had a few other hair-raising encounters on this trip, and others in the past, when lorries (sometimes they were just a cab without a trailer behind) harassed me on the North-South Expressway.

This invariably happened at night as these reckless drivers use the anonymity that comes with darkness to throw caution and speed limits to the winds.

Trust me, nobody wants a behemoth like that behind you when you are running on fumes after a long day.

I have invariably moved to the slow lane at that point for fear of my saloon being pushed aside merely by the air current emanating from the monster tailing me.

Imagine even a nudge from one of these. Who keeps tabs on heavyweight speedsters like these?

There was talk years ago when a transport minister who is no more in government said that equipment would be placed in heavy vehicles that capped their speed.

This, and other equally believable ideas that never saw their day, have gone on to ideas heaven where the unimplementable rest.

Back on earth, we still have in our midst speed hogs who think highways are theirs to break speed limits or test how fast their vehicles can actually go.

Are their owners in cahoots with their drivers or just ignorant of the fact that they have staff who could turn their vehicles into killing machines?

We know from history that fingers are invariably pointed by some companies at errant staff who pushed the speed limit or drove carelessly for reasons best known to them.

I think the time has come for rules that will allow passengers to report errant express bus and heavy vehicle drivers to the authorities as soon as they arrive at their destination.

Companies that own express buses and heavy vehicles should be held responsible for such reports to be passed on to the authorities so that investigations can be carried out and punitive action taken.

Government should come down hard on these companies that by extension put the lives of passengers and motorists at risk.

The high-level panel investigating the horrific accident on the Genting Highlands road that led to 37 deaths and 16 injuries reported that the crash was due to speeding.

I don't want to sound alarmist but something has to be done about speedsters on the roads lest we or someone we know end up as a road statistic.

Higher doctor's bills

Why do people think that private medical practitioners make a bundle of money every month?

Is it because parents have always seen the medical profession as a money-maker, sometimes selling houses and property to put their children through medical school for payback later on?

Indian, Chinese and Malays have not been exempt from this preoccupation, doing their level best to make their sons and daughters doctors.

To be sure, there is absolutely nothing wrong with parents hoping that their children make good in life with well-paying jobs and financial stability for the rest of their lives.

For as far back as I remember, private doctors have earned well, living the kind of lives that others can only hope for.

But with doctors flooding the field in recent years and group practice gobbling up much of the available clientele in terms of companies, the lone practitioner has been finding it increasingly difficult to make as much as he did years ago.

In fact, several hundred clinics are reported to have closed in the recent past due to doctors being unable to underwrite heavy rentals, rising staff costs and relatively lower income.

Some doctors prefer to work for group practices or larger clinics, letting their better-off counterparts sustain the heavier financial load.

Which doctor who started off in the 1960s and 1970s would have expected such dire times decades ahead?

Times are, undoubtedly, a little harder for private doctors but they should not expect to find any sympathy from the public used mostly to an image of doctors being well-heeled.

With consultation fees going up 14.4% from yesterday, private practitioners can expect more ordinary Malaysians to remonstrate over higher rates being charged.

They can also expect patients to ask for itemised bills as they will be ever so much more vigilant about what they are paying for.

I guess this may be the time for Malaysians to check out government medical facilities where they can be treated for a pittance as compared to private clinics.

But watch out for the long hours one will need to wait to see the doctor who will usually be deluged with patients.

There is also the problem of medicines not being available at some places like the University Malaysia Medical Centre where the patient is politely told that a certain medicine is unavailable and asked to purchase it from a private pharmacy in the premises.

For the man on the street paying RM5 for treatment is just great with medicines also costing RM5. But how does the poor fellow expect to cough up RM45 for antibiotics as was the case with a patient there recently?

These are questions that the Education Ministry, which is responsible for UMMC will have to answer. Meanwhile, have a heart for private practitioners. They are human too.

Balan Moses (executive editor, news) likes to be philosophical about life in that our mortality is in the hands of God. But while we share the same space on Earth, let's be civil to one another. No one wants death, especially on the roads, nor the pain of illness compounded by higher doctor's fees. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com