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PLUS: There are more heavy-vehicle accidents during the MCO despite fewer cars on the road, here’s why

We would think that COVID-19 and the Movement Control Order (MCO) would result in less traffic on the roads, and less road accidents because of it. While it is true that there are significantly less vehicles on the road this year compared to last year, PLUS informs that there is a 5% increase of accidents involving heavy vehicles compared to 2019.

“Corporations and businesses were impacted as the MCO demanded for physical distancing and Work From Home (WFH) order had to be followed as the National Security Council (NSC) the Ministry of Health established the precedent to lessen and eliminate human contact and interaction,” said Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, Chairman of the Alliance of Safe Community during PLUS’s first virtual Safety Day.

Tan Sri Lee mentioned that WFH led to many more food deliveries. With lesser cars on the road and increased food orders, Tan Sri Lee observed that many “rushed in delivering food and flouting traffic laws, like beating the red lights”.

Datuk Azman Ismail, PLUS Managing Director, also noted that accidents involving heavy vehicles (Class 2 & 3) had increased about 5% as compared to 2019. He said that it could be due to “long and extended working hours as well as fatigue”.

Dr Amer Siddiq, Director at UMCares and Consultant Psychiatrist USMC, mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic had took its toll on mental health. He revealed that “researchers have discovered that poor mental health might lead to increase in accidents”.

“Everyone has mental health, but some require deeper intervention and timely intervention is crucial as it impacts the safety on the roads and highways. We have seen some driving behaviours that are often evident on municipality roads have also transcended onto the highway. That is where HSSE (Health, Safety, Security and Environment) comes in and today the H is not only physical health but mental as well,” he added.

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How could they make the roads safer?

Datuk Suret Singh, Chairman of the Road Safety Research Institute (MIROS), says that there needs to be a “serious step up on scheduled and high risk operator audits to enforce compliance of the Industrial Code of Safety Practices (ICOP)”. He stressed that traffic offences like sudden lane changes without safe lane change routines and running red lights must be part of the enforced SOPs.

“MIROS has engaged the key industry players for a joint safety agenda and action plan, which covers rider education, behaviour monitoring and enforcement,” Datuk Suret added.

As delivery riders could work as much as they wanted in a day to earn commission, I can understand the need to rush an order for hungry customers. While I think this isn’t entirely the fault of the delivery riders, platforms like Grab and Foodpanda would also need to work with MIROS and PLUS to keep them safe, rather than let delivery riders be enforced and punished.

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Dzamira Dzafri