Thursday, March 29, 2007

a speedster's view on speed...

I once said “if speed kills, why aren’t there any accident resulting in death in any F1 racing?”. I said that in a discussion group. Expectedly, I was treated like George Bush having lunch at Teheran square!

“You are missing the point!”, says a woman. “That is a controlled environment. Everyone is a professional. The cars are built for speed”, rationalised another person.

But that is precisely the point, isn’t it? Speed alone, doesn’t kill. In an environment where speed is encouraged, where rules and regulations are made and strictly complied with by everybody, where the speedsters are skilled at handling speed and where the machines are built to speed and suitably equipped to handle such speed, speed does not kill!

An F1 race, or any automobile race for that matter, is definite proof that speed does not kill. Need more proof? Well, look at the Autobahn. How many fatal accidents happen on the Autobahn? Thus, the emphasis on curbing speed as a solution to preventing accidents, fatal or otherwise, is an exercise which invites the usage of the proverbial “barking at the wrong tree”. I am a keen racer myself. And I had never been involved in any accident involving other drivers while practising, testing or taking part in racing events. There are times when I ended up in the gravel but those were caused solely by my own miscalculations, stupidity or my car’s mechanical failure. In fact, as a licensed racer, I feel much safer driving around the Sepang F1 track than on our public road! Just the other day I saw a motorcyclist lying dead along Jalan Duta (after the Parliament house) at peak hours on my way home after work. The road was jammed pack with cars and it was raining. How fast could he ride? But he was zig-zagging his way. Went on the emergency lane and hit a lorry which had earlier braked abruptly. What killed him? Speed?

Look at the happenings on our road. Motorcycles zig-zagging at every opportunity. Cars jumping ques, changing lanes at will and road hogging. Huge lorries driven in dangerous manners. Overloaded vans and lorries. Drunk drivers. Pedestrians oblivious to anything at all. Pot holes. Roads which change direction without proper signage/warning or at all. Policemen who are more interested in issuing summons rather than preventing offences. And drivers/road users with bad attitudes. Just to name but a few daily observation of what we see on our public roads.

Our police have all the data about all the accidents from all the police reports lodged. After all, it is mandatory under our law that every accident be reported to the police within 24 hours from its occurrence. Why don’t we engage a consultant to look at all these data? And come up with a statistic. This statistic would show, among others, the followings :-

- the type, model and age of vehicles involved in fatal accidents. This is important. How many time have we seen fatal accident involving expensive cars like BMW, Mercs, Lexus et al? Why are Kancils, Satrias, Kenaris, Sagas and old lorries, buses and vans and what have you always involved in fatal accidents? I am not a snob but this is a fact. Is it because something is wrong with these cars/vehicles or is it because there is something wrong with the owners of these cars/vehicles? If it was the later, the statistic would also show the profile of the owners of these vehicles.

- the profile of the drivers who are involved in fatal accidents.

- the circumstances under which fatal accidents take place. For example, what was the time? Was it dark? Was it raining? Was the traffic light working? Was there a traffic jam? Etc…

- the condition of the road where fatal accidents happen.

- the condition of the vehicles involved in fatal accidents. Was it old? Was it properly maintained? Was it overloaded? Etc..

- the nature of the location of the fatal accident.

These statistics will than have to be studied. The root cause or causes of accidents, fatal or otherwise could than be ascertained and addressed in a holistic manner. Issuing summons and going all out to collect the compounds and giving discounts on the compounds is not going to work. In fact, it is now proven that it is not working. Look at the data. Spend some money on this exercise. Spend some thoughts as well. And I am sure a holistic approach could be found to at least lessen the number of fatal accidents in this country.

In short, I say, please prepare a report…

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