THE headlines read boldly “23 more offences to be in Awas” and “Traffic offenders, watch out — you could lose your licence”.
This, and other stern reminders were given to the public as the Road Transport Department (RTD) implemented the Automated Awareness Safety System (Awas) last Saturday.
By year-end, the number of offences cited under the system will be gradually increased to 25.
Of course, this new rule will not be forced upon Malaysians without adequate warning.
RTD director-general Datuk Nadzri Siron said 4,949 motorists had been issued summonses for two offences since last Saturday, but they would not receive demerit points.
After Awas was officially started, road users were given a two-week grace period before the system came into full force.
Among the new offences that will result in a point demerit are using handphones while driving, failure to fasten safety belts, failure to stop at police checks and overloading of goods on commercial vehicles.
These offences could result in the driver having his or her licence suspended or revoked altogether if enough points are accumulated.
It looks good on paper, but the effectiveness of Kejara and its enforcement have been debated for many years.
In 2012, the New Straits Times reported that “the Kejara system faced problems when it was introduced in April 1984 as it did not reduce the number of accidents. In the early 1990s, offenders went unpunished as the information on them from the police and RTD was not computerised and there was a lack of coordination between the two agencies”.
The RTD upgraded its system in 2003. However, it still ran into trouble because “it could not handle the huge volume of seven million traffic summonses”.
In 2004, only one out of 12 million motorists had their licence revoked, it was reported.
Clearly, the Kejara system has had a chequered past. But let‘s give it the benefit of the doubt.
What is needed now is consistent enforcement. The tie-up with the Automated Enforcement System (AES), which would result in automatic fines, could be the defining change that the system needs.
Malaysia needs this system to work. In the aftermath of numerous express bus accidents over the years, the Kejara system was mentioned again as a saviour.
At least one bus involved in the accidents had multiple summonses, but was plying its usual route, impervious to any action from the authorities.
Awas, which integrates both the AES and Kejara system, aims to catch habitual traffic offenders in the act. Let‘s hope it finally works.
There is another facet that could help improve road behaviour.
Malaysian drivers need to be disciplined, but the use of the rod can also be supplemented with a reward for good behaviour.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said last year this was among the proposals in a Cabinet paper expected to be presented in future.
“We are considering the proposal that driving licences be rated, for instance, platinum or gold, depending on the drivers‘ compliance with traffic rules and regulations.
“If you don‘t have any demerit points in two years, you are entitled to a certain amount of discount for car insurance premium when you renew your road tax,” he said during an interview on TV3‘s Soal Jawab programme.
At the end of the day, those entrusted with the mandate of ensuring safety on the roads need to think long and hard about making Kejara finally work.
Every year, there are some 400,000 accidents in the country. Malaysia loses about 6,000 lives to road accidents compared with 2,000 fatalities yearly in developed countries. It is time to remove the “tidak apa” attitude, and make it happen.