Why It Matters

Curb speeding giants on road

The Safer Roads Industry Taskforce has called for heavy vehicles to be fitted with tachographs to track and record how fast and far they travel.

It is about time. According to statistics, heavy vehicles and buses were involved in 799 fatal accidents from 2004 to last year - or 25.2 per cent of all fatal accidents. That is high, considering that these vehicles make up less than 7 per cent of all vehicles on the road, excluding bicycles.

In comparison, motorcycles - long seen as the most vulnerable group - accounted for 1,190 or 37.5 per cent of fatal accidents in the same period. Motorbikes make up 15 per cent of all vehicles here.

The proportion of fatal accidents with motorbikes is 2.5 times their representation on the road. For heavy vehicles and buses, the proportion is more than 3.5 times. It stands to reason. The sheer size of these vehicles renders them deadlier. Drivers are also often paid per trip, so they tend to clock more kilometres - more than double the distance clocked by cars.

It is also clear that many of these behemoths are exceeding speed limits. In fact, it is common to see commercial vehicles - heavy or light - barrelling down the highway in the middle lane.

But the authorities would do well to remember the previous times they relied on technology to curb speeding in this group. Beacons on commercial vehicles were dropped because practically every one was flashing away - indicating they were exceeding their speed limit. Speed limiters on heavy goods vehicles were found to be ineffective because they were easily tampered with. But with technological advancements - such as the global positioning system-based ERP 2.0 - enforcing good behaviour on the road could become easier and more effective.

Clearly, we should not stop at heavy vehicles. But the disproportionately high number of fatal accidents involving such vehicles makes them a top priority. It would also be useful to see if safety features found in cars - such as blindspot and fatigue alerts and automatic emergency braking - can be made mandatory on these unwieldy vehicles too.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'Curb speeding giants on road'. Print Edition | Subscribe