Monday, August 19, 2013

Banish 'it won't happen to me' mindset

Another round of Op Warta may be on the horizon, according to Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar. If you don't know what Op Warta is, well, it's when the cops go knocking on the doors of traffic offenders who have not settled their summonses. Previous Ops Warta have worked, to a certain extent.

The mere embarrassment of having people see policemen knocking on your door is sometimes enough to make people pay up. Many will actually run off to settle their summonses as soon as an Op Warta is announced, just so they don't find the men and women in blue or white turn up at their door.
But there are even more who don't do anything about it. And, this is because they are not even living at the addresses listed in the records.

This time around, though, if the police force does hold an Op Warta, there will be a slight difference. Whereas in the past, operations were held because there were too many unsettled summonses piling up, this time, it will be because the nation's top cop is unhappy with the initial report of Op Selamat.

Again, for the uninitiated, Ops Selamat is the integrated operation aimed at reducing road crashes and deaths, as well as crime, while Malaysians go about celebrating a major festive season.

Khalid was unhappy with one particular aspect of Op Selamat -- the traffic aspect. While not releasing the figures just yet, Khalid said there had been a slight decrease in the number of crashes, but an increase in the number of deaths during this season's Op Selamat.

He said tougher measures needed to be taken to bring down the number of road accidents and deaths, and to change people's mindsets. One aspect would be to hit people where it hurts the most -- their wallets. Hence, Op Warta.

But Khalid also needs to tell his men that they have to strictly enforce road rules. How many times have you seen someone breaking traffic laws in front of policemen and getting away with it?

Take, for instance, the Federal Highway. There are dedicated motorcycle lanes, but every so often, you will see a few silly daredevils speeding down the highway, weaving in and out of traffic, sometimes doing the "superman". A number of times, these motorcyclists even speed past police patrol cars, but none of them are stopped.

Hitting the culprits in their wallets, so to speak, seems like a good idea. But ultimately, it is their mindset which needs to be changed, and the only way such a change can be effected is for them to want to change.

The biggest problem is surely the "it won't happen to me" attitude. It's an attitude that can be argued as being part of human nature. Most, if not all, of us are affected by this attitude.

Read about a fatal crash? It won't happen to me. See a fatal crash right in front of your eyes? It won't happen to me.

And it's the same for anything and everything.

Boy loses fingers while playing with firecrackers? It won't happen to me. Man struck by lightning while playing football in the middle of a thunderstorm? It won't happen to me.

Do a quick survey and you're more than likely to find that the vast majority of the people you ask will tell you that.

"It won't happen to me... I'm a good driver."

Newsflash people: You may not be as good a driver as you think you are, or the other person on the road isn't a good driver. Then, there are all the other factors that play a part in road crashes -- weather, road conditions and the occasional cow, tapir, dog, elephant, human or, worse, non-human crossing the road.

So, yes, what is most needed is a change in mindset. Only then will we be able to bring down those horrible statistics, which, at present, shows that more than 7,000 people lose their lives on our roads every single year.

In the meantime, dear Tan Sri, do get these people where it hurts. Do whatever you can to change their mindsets. And, make sure your men enforce road rules all year round and not just during festive seasons.