Will a refreshed driver demerit system reduce road traffic deaths and injuries, especially of recalcitrant drivers and riders?
There could be a big change of drivers’ attitudes in Malaysia following the Ministry of Transport’s decision to review the decades-old driver demerit system, KEJARA. MIROS has been tasked by the Ministry of Transport (MOT) to lead this review.
The first meeting of the working group was held on 29th July 2020 with the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) and the Road Transport Department (RTD). The working group will continue regular meetings to ensure effective coordination in the KEJARA revamp efforts.
Driver Demerit Points System
An efficient Driver Demerit Points System can instil driver discipline and a coordinated effort is now in progress to achieve the desired outcomes.
It is understood that the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, wants an effective KEJARA system to be rolled out as a MIROS matter of priority.
This is a major initiative and strategy to improve road safety in Malaysia, targeting persistently reckless drivers with suspension of drivers’ licences. KEJARA is the most effective way to discipline the 15 per cent to 20 per cent habitually reckless drivers on our roads, warning drivers of KEJARA points accumulation and suspension on attaining maximum 20 demerit points. Under this revamp, drivers who have no traffic summonses for one year will be awarded a merit point bonus for good behaviour.
MIROS’ initial assessment based on the first working group coordination meeting on 29th July 2020 is that data integration of PDRM traffic summonses to the KEJARA Demerit Points database will take at least three working months. Commencement of data integration is now pending the award of a new IT Development and Maintenance contract for JPJ’s IT systems network by the Ministry of Finance.
Financial implications of road deaths
While human anguish, pain and permanent disability can’t be measured, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report estimates that the financial implications of road deaths and injuries is equivalent to 1 per cent to 2 per cent of a nation’s GDP.
Conversely, using detailed data on deaths and economic indicators from 135 countries, a World Bank 2018 study “The High Toll of Traffic Injuries: Unacceptable and Preventable,” estimates that, on average, a 10 per cent reduction in road traffic deaths has the impact of raising per capita real GDP by 3.6 per cent over a 24-year period.
There are signs that the road safety situation is finally changing in Malaysia after years of increasing road death toll figures. The year 2016 could have marked a significant deflection point when road deaths reached 7,152 with reductions in subsequent years as follows.
Year Road Crash deaths
Credit should be given to MOT for empowering MIROS to coordinate this integration between PDRM and JPJ. The KEJARA database on driver demerit points currently only includes JPJ traffic summonses. PDRM traffic summonses are not linked to the KEJARA data.
The implementation of KEJARA where delinquent drivers are penalised by suspension of the driver’s licence will translate to speedy administrative action on driver’s licence suspension for drivers attaining the maximum 20 demerit prints compared to court action which is also a great deterrence but takes a much longer time frame to meet out sentences to reckless drivers.
MIROS is the only full-fledged Road Safety Institute in the ASEAN region. MIROS is a globally accredited ASEAN centre on road safety. Among other achievements, the MIROS PC3 Crash Assessment Lab in Melaka conducts crash impact assessment and safety star grading of new models of vehicles.
Major quick win for road safety
KEJARA is one of the low-hanging fruits which can result in a major quick win for road safety in Malaysia. Construction of motorcycle lanes can also have a major impact as 66 per cent of road deaths involve motorcycles but the infrastructure will take at least five years to be put in place assuming the MIROS proposal for this infra upgrade is adopted under the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021–2025).
Other quick wins are creating seatbelt-wearing and child-restraint systems compliance as a community culture. Rolling out speed detection cameras at frequent crash locations as well as red light violation detection can also have a major deference on reckless drivers and riders stringent enforcement action. Mobile phone usage without hands-free devices causes distracted driving. Addressing this bad behaviour norm will also have a major deterrent effect on addressing recklessness on our roads.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030 (UN SDG 2030) has set a global target of reducing road deaths and serious injury by 50 per cent by 2030. An effective KEJARA system which delivers its designed outcomes combined with motorcycle lanes and other quick wins will greatly assist Malaysia to attain UN SDG 2030 targets.
Datuk Suret Singh is Chairman of MIROS at Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS)
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