Lucy Sebli

We shiver as emergency vehicles speed past us on the road. Our hearts miss a beat as we hear of a road accident on the news, but road traffic crashes are not accidents — they are completely preventable.

Road safety is an issue that does not receive anywhere near the attention it deserves. The numbers are staggering. Road traffic crashes now represent the eighth leading cause of death globally.

On top of that, a report provided by the WHO on global status of road safety in 2018, indicated that deaths from road traffic crashes have increased to 1.35 million a year and cause up to 50 million injuries.

That is nearly 3,700 people dying on the world’s roads every day. One of the most heart-breaking statistics in this report is that road traffic injury is the leading cause of death for people aged between five and 29.

Transport accidents (5.4 percent) were the fourth most common cause of death in Malaysia in 2016, behind ischaemic heart disease (13.2 percent), pneumonia (12.5 percent) and cerebrovascular disease (6.9 percent).

The number of road traffic deaths continues to climb, and death and injuries resulting from road traffic crashes remain a serious problem globally and the current trend suggests that this will continue to be the case in the foreseeable future.

WHO in 2016 ranked Malaysia as the third-highest death rate (23.6 percent) from road accidents in Asia and Asean after Thailand (32.7 percent) and Vietnam (26.4 percent) respectively.

The Global Status Report on Road Safety published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank in December 2018 reported that Malaysia had 7,152 deaths in 2016, of which 87 percent were males and 13 percent females.

Data provided by the Ministry of Works Malaysia also revealed an increase in the number of deaths due to accidents, from 6,286 deaths in 2003 to 6,917 in 2012, although in 2018, it showed a slight decrease, from 6,740 in 2017 to 6,284 in 2018.

Of this, motorcyclists have been identified as the most vulnerable road users because they contributed to about 45.9 percent of the total deaths in 2017 alone. This is followed by motorcar users, which stood at 10.31 percent (Royal Malaysia Police, 2017).

In Sarawak, although the number of deaths due to road accidents had dropped by seven percent in 2017 (400 deaths) as compared to 2016 (432 deaths), that number had increased in 2018 where a total of 712 road accidents were recorded in Sarawak during the Christmas road safety operation in the state, which showed an increase of 1.8 percent compared to 2017 where 699 cases were recorded.

On average, 50 road accidents happened in Sarawak every day and from these accidents, at least one death will be registered.

In Sarawak, most of the accident cases involved motorcycles with fatalities involving motorcyclists and pillion riders numbering seven in 2018.

There are many reasons for this trend: rapid urbanisation, poor safety standards (both road and vehicles), lack of enforcement, people driving distracted or fatigued, others under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding and a failure to wear seat-belts or helmets.

In Sarawak, the condition of the road is the common factor leading to numerous accidents and fatalities.

Road accidents usually rise during the festive breaks.

Sarawak Crime Prevention and Community Security has recorded a total of 692 (13 deaths) and 680 (10 deaths) road accidents during Op Selamat in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Coincidentally, this coming weekend, thousands of Malaysians and Sarawakians will head home to kampung — where ever that may be — to celebrate Hari Raya Haji which falls on Aug 12.

The most popular modes of transportation would be public buses, vans, motorcycles and motorcars.

Those with huge families would often choose motorcars over other forms of transportation because they can arrange their time of travelling at their convenience.

At the same time, it is relatively the cheapest way to travel, particularly in Sarawak.

My advice to my fellow Sarawakians who are going to travel this weekend, please make sure that your vehicle is in top shape and safe to drive.

Please make sure you have enough sleep or rest before the long drive. If possible, make sure you have an experienced alternate driver, who can take over when you are tired.

Stop and rest if you feel tired. Plan and arrange your travel ahead of time. Make sure you leave home early and avoid driving at night or in the rain.

Driving alone on isolated roads at night and in treacherous weather is playing with fire. Please think of the safety of your family members and other road users when you drive.

Think of your loved ones who are waiting for your arrival at your destination.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.