Thrills, spills and death plague Malaysian roads
Kuala Lumpur (ANTARA News) – Malaysia’s neurosurgeons, bartenders and nightclub bouncers all have something in common: they are all busiest on weekends.
Every weekend, neurosurgeons here operate on hundreds of motorcyclists, car drivers and passengers brought into hospital emergency rooms with head injuries suffered on some of the world’s most dangerous roads.
Many of them do not survive and join a toll of about 17 people killed on average every day on Malaysia’s roads.
“Cancer and HIV-AIDS might hog the headlines but road accidents are the biggest killer in Malaysia,” Kuala Lumpur neurosurgeon Professor Vickneswaran Mathaneswaran told Reuters.
That figure translates to an average of 4.2 deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles and ranks Malaysia as the 30th most-dangerous country in terms of fatal road accidents, according to U.N. data.
Malaysia has built a web of high-speed motorways over the past 20 years as it races toward its goal of developed-country status by 2020, but road safety is still stuck in the slow lane.
Over-crowded cars hurtle along roads at more than 100 kph (62 mph). Rarely are the occupants buckled. Toddlers often crawl around unrestrained in the front passenger seat.
Motorcyclists take the most risks, weaving through city traffic at high speed, their helmets unfastened if worn at all.
In 2005, 6,188 people died in road accidents in Malaysia, 60 percent of them motorcyclists. In the first half of 2006 alone, 3,137 people were killed with 1,818 being either motorcyclists or pillion riders.
Most accidents are unrelated to alcohol abuse. Young male motorcyclists are often high on nothing more than adrenaline.
“It is exhilarating to race down a road. All I need is just a few ringgit for fuel and I can have the time of my life,” dispatch rider Amir Fairuz told Reuters as he prepared for an illegal street race on a Friday night.
He is among the hundreds of motorcyclists who gather every weekend in Kuala Lumpur to race each other or just roam in packs along expressways and city streets, performing dangerous tricks at high speed, some of them without helmets.
Illegal racers dice with death in the hope of winning up to 3,000 ringgit ($816) in prize money or sometimes a girl for the night.
For some of these hard-core dare-devils, taking drugs is standard before pushing their cheap bikes beyond the limit, reaching speeds of around 160 kph (100 mph).
Some of these young men end up in the care of neurosurgeon Mathaneswaran, whose facility treats about 100 accident cases a month. He is frustrated at such preventable suffering.
“The vaccine is simple. It is road safety,” he said.
But Malaysia’s road safety director, Suret Singh, said curbing road accidents needs a comprehensive approach.
“They are the young and the reckless. We need to instill road safety culture in them,” Singh told Reuters in an interview.
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