THE Safety First Group, a local movement concerned with daily safety issues among fellow citizens, invited me last week to speak to a gathering of residents of Kota Kemuning in Shah Alam.
It was a hi-tea event to present certificates to several police officers serving at Shah Alam for arresting over the past few weeks gangsters who had been active in the housing area.
Like what I have been highlighting via this column lately, I made an impassioned plea for greater public concern, role and participation to curb the alarming and growing number of deaths among motorcyclists and pillion riders.
A few days later, I received a WhatsApp note from a Kota Kemuning resident who attended the event. It is loaded with so much wisdom that I must share it with readers of this column.
This young Chinese man who introduced himself as ET texted me: “Your story on kapcais resonated with me ... As a student from Raub during my college days, I rode my Honda EX5 bike in Kuala Lumpur for two years, and my mom said she was so worried she couldn’t sleep for two years!
“Fortunately I was a ‘penunggang berhemah’ (defensive rider) and I had no accidents – hence I’m still around today!”
Kapcais are small-engined motorcyles and are the most common means of transport in Malaysia and some other Southeast Asian countries. They are the most affordable vehicles especially to the B40 group.
My response to ET’s note was: “If only every kapcai rider follows your safe riding way, thousands of those now lying six feet underground would still be alive today. A holistic approach is absolutely necessary to curb these ‘mass killings’.”
And because ET rightly mentioned that his mother could not sleep well for two years worrying about his safety on the kapcai, I shot him this note: “All those daredevil riders like the Mat Rempits who don’t value their lives forget one very important matter – the persons who are the saddest when they get killed are the mothers. Just like what your mother felt for you during the two years. These crazy riders just don’t value how traumatic it was for their mothers to deliver them, not to mention to carry them in their wombs for nine months and if they think of this, they will be ‘penunggang berhemah’ like you.”
I specifically mentioned this mother episode as this idea actually did not originally come from me personally.
Of all places, I picked this up on a trip to Tioman island not too long ago where my impression of this popular tourist resort being peaceful was shattered. I was in a taxi when all of sudden a convoy of Mat Rempits overtook the vehicle.
The taxi driver had this to say to me after I expressed shock: “These boys just don’t know how difficult it was for their mothers to deliver them and they just throw their lives away!”
ET’s response was compelling: “Very true. Keep up what you are doing in creating this awareness. Hats off to you. If you need a speaker or trainer to do a talk to the kapcai boys, that will be my contribution to a better society.”
Thank you ET and I shall tell the Safety First Group to get you on board in its effort to create greater safety awareness among young motocyclists to prevent them from being killed on the road.
There has been and continues to be far too many tragedies among motorcyclists and buckets upon buckets of tears shed by their loved ones, not to mention thousands of others who are physically crippled following serious injuries.
All stakeholders need to place this on the national agenda that urgently requires a holistic approach to curb this road genocide that claims over 4,000 lives annually or 40,000 plus in any 10-year period, mostly in the 16 to 36 age group.
Business as usual effort should stop and agencies like the Road Safety Department with the backing of the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) and other stakeholders should revisit their mission and vision and leave no stone unturned to curb kapcai-related deaths.
Of course many ideas have been bandied out but I reckon the most potentially effective one is the twin approach of confining the two-wheelers to left lanes and imposing much lower speed limits on such vehicles.
If laws need to be passed to make this happen, so be it and it should be a matter of urgency.
A Vision Zero Conference 2019 was held in Putrajaya earlier this week aimed at zero accidents at the workplace and the road.
Social Security Organisation (Socso) chief executive officer Datuk Seri Dr Mohmmed Azman Aziz Mohammed told the conference: “If you want to achieve the prevention culture with good safety and health management, then it must first be ingrained in ourselves that we do not accept any accidents, all accidents must be avoided, and they are all preventable.”
Let everyone especially kapcai riders walk the talk on this life and death issue.