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More traffic cameras, but where’s the deterrent?

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 05 May 2015

By Y S CHAN
DURING a road safety forum in December 2003, I proposed that private companies be engaged for surveillance to overcome the shortage of enforcement officers and static cameras.

My proposals were reported in several English dailies and published full-page in a Malay broadsheet newspaper.

In April 2011, Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar who was then Deputy Inspector-General of Police announced police would discard “ambush” tactics to nab speeding motorists.

In September 2012, Automated Enforcement System (AES) cameras installed at 14 spots captured 63,558 offences within the first eight days of operations, an average of one offence every two-and-a-half minutes by each camera round the clock. At this rate, 831 cameras would capture 171, 979,605 offences a year.

trafficcam

In September 2013, a wholly-owned government unit took over the management of AES from the two concessionaires following a huge public outcry.

In March 2015, Boustead Holdings Bhd and Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera disclosed they are taking over the AES operations with plans to operate 500 cameras nationwide.

Undoubtedly, installing speed cameras at many strategic spots of our highways are bound to deliver a good return on investment.

However, it should be noted that static cameras wait for offences to be committed to record the act. There is no deterrent factor involved and in the past, many old cameras appeared not to be working.

Going by the large number of offences recorded, the AES warning signs went unnoticed, ignored or forgotten by many passing motorists.

Since 2003, I had been advocating the use of mobile crews over static cameras. The camera crews should wear bright uniforms and operate in full view of the public to deter offences.

Mobile traffic cameras ... will provide deterrent factor.

Mobile traffic cameras … will provide deterrent factor.

During the recent May Day exodus out of Kuala Lumpur, there was a 17km-long crawl from Gombak toll plaza to Genting Sempah, and 20km-long crawl from Bukit Lanjan to Rawang.

Elsewhere, there was a 24km-long congestion from Sungei Perak R&R to Changkat Jering, a 28km-long crawl from Sungkai to Slim River, and a 41km-long traffic jam from Bangi to Senawang.

Wherever congestion builds up, most motorists initially keep to their lanes, but there are always those impatient ones who zig-zag across lanes in search of gaps — they just want to overtake the car in front of them.

In bumper-to-bumper traffic crawls, many drivers wait patiently while some curse at those gleefully speeding past them using the emergency lanes.

However, it does not take long for many drivers to reach their breaking point when crawling in endless start-stop traffic, or waiting indefinitely in a gridlock.

Even those who are normally patient may not be so if someone is tired, sick, and hungry or needs a toilet break and other emergencies.

Just like a stampede, it will soon explode into a chaotic situation with vehicles trying to proceed through whatever opening available, on and off roads.

No amount of education will be able to stop subsequent waves of motorists using the emergency lane. Prolonged inaction by the authorities triggers such frequent transgressions.

We should no longer accept the standard answer that lack of enforcement is due to manpower shortage or that enforcement officers cannot be stationed everywhere.

Driving on the emergency lane is deliberate and inconsiderate.

The only way to drive home the message to such hard-core offenders is to suspend their driving licence for a short period and make them attend a civics course.

The serial re-offenders should have their licences taken away and made to re-sit driving tests.

But all these would be unnecessary and preventable if sufficient mobile camera crews are stationed along our highways, particularly during holiday periods, of which there are many in this country.

Traffic flow will be much smoother and faster, saving precious time and fuel. Also, there will be less anxiety and frustrations when traffic moves at a steady pace.

But there has been no large scale attempt. Is it because there was no money to be made conducting such an exercise?

As for manpower, ex-servicemen could easily be recruited to work as camera crews. On normal days, they can be stationed at strategic spots in our cities and towns.

Their presence would deter motorists and motorcyclists from jumping red lights, causing gridlocks in yellow boxes, crossing double lines or parking indiscriminately.

Also, they would deter street crimes such as snatch thefts and illegal road races, which remain common occurrences, as long as there is little intervention by the police.

Although the Road Transport Act allows for the seizure of vehicles used for illegal racing, failure to act decisively by enforcement agencies has spawned many to use our roads as their playgrounds to the detriment of others.

The three people in the Mitsubishi Pajero who lost their lives on May 2 should not be mere statistics.

They were people with a future to look forward but whose lives were cruelly cut short, leaving behind loved ones, including another two daughters who are now orphans.

Do we continue to allow transgressors commit traffic offences and simultaneously sow seeds of lawlessness on our congested roads?

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