On 25th October 2019, Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang worker, Mohaidin Gani Mohamad lost his life after being hit by a drunk driver, whilst on his way to work. The driver was found to be driving under the influence of alcohol and is currently still under remand. Many questions arise from this incident – how safe are our roads and how can be guarantee public safety, how strict are authorities in upholding enforcement and of course, are current laws enough to deter drivers from driving under the influence?
Drunk driving is a crime in Malaysia and under Section 44 of the Road Transport Act, any person that causes the death or injury will be subjected to imprisonment of not less than 3 years and a maximum of 10 years, in addition to that, will be fine of not less than RM8000 and not more than RM20,000. On paper, the punishments should be enough to deter people from drinking irresponsibility, but the truth of the matter is – it appears as though it is not.
Every year, numerous reports of fatal reckless drunk driving appear on our newspaper headlines that spark public discourse on issues pertaining to prevention and punishment of such a crime. Malaysia has the third highest fatality rate from road traffic accidents in South East Asia, behind Thailand and Vietnam, and this is revelation is something we cannot be proud of. In general, road traffic accidents are preventable and predictable but more so, when it comes to the prevention of drivers driving under the influence. It is also a social equity issue where susceptible road users, especially motorbikes and bicycles, are confronted with a rather lopsided share of risk, injury and fatality.
A cohesive effort is needed where everyone– government, enforcing authorities, business premises and the public, play important roles to send out the message that drunk driving is not to be tolerated at any cost.
For a start, there is a need to reinforce punishment – increase years of imprisonment to a minimum of 5 years as well as impose heftier fines to those found guilty. Enforcement from the police must be strict with no room for compromise. This can be done by increasing the number of drunk driving check points. Dashboard cameras or even body cameras can be used by the police to ensure transparency and protection for both parties, in an event, something goes array.
In addition to this, business owners must also be responsible for the well-being of their patrons. Making sure that their patrons fully understand the consequences of driving under the influence and the repercussions they will face when an accident ensues. Perhaps sticking posters of the dangers of drunk driving and the possible lives lost from such irresponsible behaviours could work to an extent but both business premises and members of public can moot the idea of promoting designated drivers, where someone who is sober is present to ensure everyone’s safety.
While awareness campaigns to raise the dangers of driving under the influence has led to positive results, it still is not enough to guarantee the safety of all road users – be it drivers, to innocent bystanders, adults and children. There is no doubt that we need political will to enforce law and subsequently, punish those who harm others as a result of their impaired judgement and irresponsible acts.
Accidents caused by drunk driving can be prevented and we must do everything necessary to prevent the loss of innocent lives. This must stop, and we must not allow any room for leniency because public safety is absolutely non-negotiable.