What MOT’s U-Turn on Commercial Drivers’ Medical Exam Means To Malaysia — Dr Sivanaesan Letchumanan

The Transport Ministry unilaterally reversed its decision on a new medical exam for commercial drivers.

Road traffic accidents (RTA) in Malaysia is on an increasing trend. It rose from 533,575 in 2017 to 548,598 cases in 2018.

By WHO statistics (2016), estimated road traffic death rate (per 100,000 population) for Malaysia was 23.6, as compared to Singapore (2.8) and Indonesia (12.2). Countries worse than Malaysia included Thailand (32.7), Vietnam (26.4) and Zimbabwe (34.7).

The global status report on Road Safety 2018 by WHO highlighted that road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of people aged five to 29 years.

Road safety is a shared responsibility and reducing risk in road traffic system requires commitment and informed decision-making by government and agency. After every festival, the media will splash the latest statistics of deaths in road accidents and there will be cries and screams.

Malaysia’s RTA statistic clearly shows that efforts by the Ministry of Transport (MOT) and related agency, the Road Transport Department (JPJ), have failed.

Three main factor contributions to road accidents are:
• The road
• The vehicle
• The driver factor

Malaysia had good roads compared to Singapore and Indonesia. We use almost similar vehicles. That leaves the other variable — drivers – the most likely factor contributing to the bad Malaysian statistics.

We have a great set of laws in road but as usual, they’re poorly enforced. On the other hand, officers from MOH (Ministry of Health) were involved in formulating a comprehensive medical examination for vocational drivers.

As a former MOH DG put it: “Driving a motor vehicle is a complex task involving perception, appropriated judgment, a designated response time and reasonable physical capabilities. A range of medical conditions may impair one’s driving ability resulting in a crash causing injury or death.”

Hence a comprehensive medical examination will be able to pick up conditions that can alter the above capabilities. Experts had spent years to come up with a format which was discussed with multi-department specialist and agencies. The main aim is to play a vital role in reducing mortality in our roads, hence reducing the suffering of the loved ones. Drivers themselves begin to realise the importance of the examination once explained to them by doctors.

However, the Ministry of Transport went to reverse this examination on a unilateral decision without consulting other stakeholders after usual initial grouses from some drivers.

They seem to trade the safety of millions of road users’ lives for a populist decision. Hence, years of work done by medical experts have been wasted by the action of the Ministry of Transport, esspecially the Minister.

Hence, don’t be surprised if our road traffic death rates increase to that of Zimbabwe’s, thanks to the Ministry of Transport.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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