The (other) death statistics we need to talk about

Sadly, many view the death toll on the road as less frightening statistics than the coronavirus


THE NOVEL coronavirus outbreak has been dominating local headlines as Malaysia became one of the first few countries with confirmed cases about two weeks ago.

Understandably, Malaysians are concerned. Worries are heightened with the fact that there are still no available vaccines against the virus.

While many people have expressed their worries, unfortunately, they were people who peddled fake news, Internet rumour mongers who had amplified the situation. Authorities had taken actions against the culprit.

The Health Ministry and public health practitioners have been working hard to calm nerves, but the biggest challenge is to contain the misinformation on the Internet.

Health practitioners have become the “Internet doctors”, spending time in the cyber sphere to engage users despite online trolls.

The medical fraternity has come forward to protect public health and safety, an oath these professionals are committed to defend.

But the global coronavirus outbreak had overshadowed the grim death statistics of the recent festive period.

According to the police’s figures, up until Jan 31, a total of 18,830 road accidents were recorded in Ops Selamat. Out of these, 166 cases resulted in fatalities.

It is sad that 183 lives were lost or an average of 15 deaths a day. While it would be unfair to compare the global virus outbreak and road death, it remains a stark reminder of the reality on Malaysian roads.

Unlike little control can be taken by everyday civilian to cure the flu virus except to take precautionary measures, the general public can improve road safety and reduce fatalities on the road.

Sadly, many view the death toll on the road as less frightening statistics than the coronavirus. Others brush it as a normal occurrence during peak traffic periods.

The police identified six major offences by road users during the operations — using mobile phones while driving, beating traffic lights, driving over speed limits, misusing emergency lanes, cutting queues and overtaking on double lines.

All these are due to road users’ conduct. How many of us are left shell-shocked after witnessing bikers texting while on their bikes and zigzagging the busy streets of Kuala Lumpur?

If that does not make you cringe, try car drivers who are watching their favourite TV series on the phone.

The Malay adage “Malang tidak berbau”, but hard to ignore the contributors to the high number of accidents. It is most frustrating that many of these accidents could actually have been prevented.

We can demand stricter laws. The authorities can take different approaches to increase road safety. But it is hard to prevent the high rate of accidents when road users themselves are irresponsible.

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