Road safety experts have questioned the recent move by the government to offer huge discounts on traffic summonses in conjunction with the first 100 days of its “Malaysian Family” tagline, warning that this will do nothing to improve road safety in the long run.
The offer of up to 80% off for summonses issued by the police and Road Transport Department saw crowds of people gathering at police stations and payment centres as motorists rushed to take advantage of the discounts.
The offer, initially meant to last four days, was eventually extended until the end of the year following positive feedback.
Law Teik Hua, director of the Road Safety Research Centre at Universiti Putra Malaysia, said traffic regulations alone might not be enough to address problems of road safety.
“I suggest that we stop giving special offers or discounts for traffic summonses,” he told MalaysiaNow.
“Conversely, stricter action should be taken to punish bad drivers.”
Such measures might include increasing the rate of late payment summonses and taking offenders to court or blacklisting them by blocking their licence renewals, he said.
While the number of deaths due to accidents has been on the decline, road safety in Malaysia remains an issue of concern.
In February, the transport ministry said 6,167 deaths were recorded in 2019, down from 7,152 in 2016. On average, meanwhile, half a million road accident cases were reported to the police each year from 2010 to 2019.
Offers of discounts such as those under the 100-Day Aspirasi Keluarga Malaysia Programme are nothing new in Malaysia.
In March this year, the police offered a 50% discount in conjunction with Police Day for summonses settled online.
A month later, the Road Transport Department (JPJ) dangled a 70% discount on traffic summonses for two months including for cases that were still blacklisted.
Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said then that the discount, offered in conjunction with JPJ’s 75th anniversary, involved 3.5 million active summonses identified from 2010 to March this year.
The “Malaysian Family” discount meanwhile saw 2.3 million traffic summonses settled and RM109 million collected as of Dec 12, the end of the original four-day period.
Lee Lam Thye, the former chairman of the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research, said offers of discounts were one way to get as many people as possible to settle overdue summonses.
He also noted the uncertainty of the times where many are struggling to make ends meet.
However, he urged the government to consider the matter from the aspect of law enforcement and how efficient this would be if such discounts were repeatedly offered.
“I am worried that it will gradually become a culture in this country that every traffic offender doesn’t have to worry,” he said.
“They will say ‘Don’t pay the summonses yet, let’s wait for a discount’.”
Lee, who is also chairman of the Alliance for Safe Community organisation, said if this becomes a practice, it would lead to a “discount culture”.
“It will reach a point where society no longer learns its lessons, or is not afraid of the law,” he said.
“RM300 (for a police summons) is a huge amount, especially for those with low incomes. Summonses are to discipline road users but they will take it lightly if they know they can get a discount.”
And at the end of the day, offers of discounts on summonses are also unfair to those who pay theirs promptly.
“This is unfair to road users who do not delay in paying their fines,” Law said.
“The purpose of summonses is to make sure that road users are aware of improper practices while they are driving or walking on the road.”