Drunk drivers kill and we know it, but…

Figures show that between 2010 and 2015, 618 deaths were recorded due to drunk drivers

pic by TMR FILE

IF THERE is anything so obvious to every right-thinking person: Drunk drivers kill. And their victims are innocent lives.

Figures showed that between 2010 and 2015, 618 deaths were recorded due to drunk drivers. Based on the current scenario, the number could be higher.

Based on the statistics, Malaysia is only behind Thailand and Vietnam in road fatalities within South-East Asia, but the latter two have bigger population. So, based on the total population, the situation is worse for Malaysia.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that road fatality is the leading cause of death among our youths.

Last December, the Global Status Report on Road Safety published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank stated that in 2016 Malaysia had 7,152 deaths with 87% of the victims are male.

But the worries of drink driving-related accidents have sounded alarm bells. The latest tragedy in Penang last weekend claimed the life of Penang City Council public health assistant Mohaidin Gani Mohamad. The tragic death sparked another debate on the need for alcohol curfew and improvement of public policy to prevent similar occurrences.

State leader Syerleena Abdul Rashid called for tougher punishments as a deterrent, citing the three-year imprisonment for those found guilty is not sufficient.

She said the message needs to be sent out that Malaysians should no longer tolerate drunk driving.

One’s selfishness should not be at the expense of another person’s life.

Penang executive councillor Dr Afif Bahardin proposed a time curfew on alcohol consumption to ensure no innocent lives would be taken away due to these drivers’ recklessness.

What is the best solution? Malaysia’s neighbour Thailand’s law prohibits the sale of alcohol between 2pm and 5pm, and between midnight and 11am. Despite the preventive laws, driving under the influence of alcohol remains the nation’s main cause of road fatalities.

Almost everyone agrees that drunk driving could endanger lives. But does imposing an alcohol curfew and stricter laws sufficient to prevent the menace? What would be the best policy to ensure the safety of innocent road users?

Some would agree, there is no harm in trying. But more pertinent.

This should be the time everyone should band together — enforcement officers, public health officials and individuals — to remedy the rising cases of road accidents. It should not be the case where actions are warranted only when tragedies occurred.

It has been “the Malaysian” way that when a major accident or a tragedy happens, there will be a huge blow up. Everybody will provide suggestions and remedies. A famous quote which you will find constantly repeated is “we will investigate and take the necessary actions”. Such was the constant when accidents involving public transport like buses.

After a few months, the issue dies of a slow and quiet death. It becomes like an old newspaper.

Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research plans to reduce 50% of deaths related to road accidents next year. While accidents are accidents or some will say fated, measures can be put in place to reduce the numbers. It takes political will, cohesive cooperation and consistency from everybody.

Perhaps, there should be a shift in the approach. Instead of managing road accidents as a public safety issue, the government should look at the issue as a public health matter, similar to an outbreak, smoking or taking excessive sugar. If such is the case, the matter will be given a greater consideration.

The WHO DG and World Bank president said in the Global Status Report on Road Safety, “acting now will save lives”. We should act, consistently.

And for the umpteenth time: Don’t drink and drive.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.