Hell Express – Part 2

An earlier article on the same matter was written in 2007.

Sani Express accident in December 2009
Sani Express accident near Ipoh Selatan Toll Plaza in December 2009

Some time after 7.30pm, Sunday, 19th December 2010, my uncle and aunt drove back home towards Kuala Lipis on the Benta-Kuala Lipis road. After taking a bend, they noticed a little too late that there was a car ahead of them that was straddling the road after skidding. They hit the car, and in turn were hit by two other cars behind them. My uncle suffered a broken sternum and two of his ribs that punctured both his lungs, and caused his heart to swell to twice its normal size. He is now fighting for his life on a life-support machine in the Temerloh Hospital.

My aunt on the other hand, suffered only bruises and shock.

She wore a seat-belt, he did not.

That made the difference.

As we stood near his hospital bed, my Berry beeped and I saw a newsflash on the tour bus accident near Simpang Pulai that killed 27 people including 24 Thais and 3 Malaysians, and injured 10 other Thais on their way to the KL International Airport from the Cameron Highlands. Just when I thought that 15 dead near Pedas on 10-10-10 was bad, this had to be the worst.

The Pedas-Simpang Ampat bus that crashed on 10-10-10
The Pedas-Simpang Ampat bus that crashed on 10-10-10

A total of 1.27 million people die each year around the world due to road accidents. That comes down to 3500 average deaths per day and 150 average deaths per hour. Between 20 to 50 million people suffer from injuries as a result of road accidents. And 90% of these figures occur in low and middle income countries. In short, road accidents IS a pandemic, albeit one that is often ignored.

According to WHO’s Global Status Report on Road Safety published in 2009, deaths caused by road accidents by age around the world in 2004 are as follows:

Ages 0 – 4 years: rank #14 (#1 – perinatal causes)
Ages 5 – 14 years: rank #2 (#1 – lower respiratory infections)
Ages 15-29 years: rank #1
Ages 30-44 years: rank #3 (#1 – HIV/AIDS)
Ages 45-69 years: rank #8 (#1 – Ischaemic heart disease)
Ages 70 above : rank #20 (#1 – Ischaemic heart disease)

In total, road accidents rank 10th on the leading causes of deaths worldwide.

In Malaysia, out of a population of 27,730,000 in 2009, we had 6.527 road fatalities. In the same year, we had 17,626,411 registered vehicles on the road. In 2008, our fatality per 10,000 vehicles stand at slightly below 4 while the benchmark is 2 fatalities per 10,000 cars. In the same year, our deaths per 100,000 population is at 24 while the benchmark is 10 per 100,000.

In 2009 and 2010, special operations were conducted by various agencies especially during the festive seasons. In a particular study of commercial buses from 39 companies plying the southern highways, of 154 trips made, only 35% had two drivers for long trips. Many companies installed anti-glare films, had drivers wearing uniform, had fire extinguishers on board, and each driver had a rest after four hours of driving.

However, a high percentage of drivers did not use seat-belts although it is mandatory (I bet you did not know of this mandatory requirement), quite a large percentage also did not have seat-belts for drivers and passengers. Only 20% provided seat-belts for passengers.

Out of 50 samples, 47 were using handphone while driving, 8 were overtaking dangerously, 30 tailgated, 1 was sleepy, and 20 performed harsh braking.

Average speed of those samples was 114km/h, maximum speed was 134km/h when their maximum allowed speed on highways is 90km/h.

As I ponder on the needless and senseless deaths of the bus passengers, wondering when will the government finally say “enough is enough and not bow down to pressure from the Association of Bus Owners, an express bus that belongs to a company my father once chaired overtook me on the highway as I was doing 110km/h.

Another nut behind the wheel.