The Jakarta Post
Every year, at least 1 million new cars and about 6 million new motorcycles hit the roads in Indonesia with the drivers having the freedom to break traffic regulations.
Motorcyclists driving without helmets or against the flow of traffic are an omnipresent sight in cities. Some of them are too young to drive. Meanwhile, motorists exceeding the speed limit on toll roads are able to do so without being pulled over by the police.
The result is more than 105,000 traffic accidents — an average of 287 accidents per day — in 2016, killing 25,589 people and injuring a further 22,939, according to data from the National Police. In 2017, the number decreased slightly to 98,414 accidents, killing 24,213 and injuring 16,410.
A recent traffic law enforcement operation that lasted two weeks, called Operation Zebra, showed that the more the law is enforced, the lower the number of traffic accidents. On the final day of the operation, Nov. 12, the police recorded only 33 traffic accidents throughout the country. This is far lower than the number recorded on Oct. 16, two weeks before the operation began, when 278 incidents were recorded nationwide.
The Jakarta Police traffic unit’s law enforcement division head, Adj. Sr. Comr. Budiyanto, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that the laws being enforced mainly concerned road safety, such as the use of helmets for motorcyclists and seat belts for motorists, traffic light violations, driving on the wrong side of the road or using phones while driving.
Freedom to break the law
Even though Indonesia has a fairly strict traffic law that covers almost all the dos, don’ts, and details punishment for violators, many still choose to disregard the rules altogether, so long as they do not see any police in their vicinity.
This lack of desire to abide by the law has prompted adults and teenagers to try their luck by driving motorcycles without licenses, as was the case with five teenage girls who were apprehended after going for a joyride without their parents’ knowledge.
Last Sunday, a group of underage teenagers was apprehended by the West Jakarta Police after they were hit by a car on the Tomang toll road when they tried to turn around after realizing they had gone the wrong way.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest study on road safety in 2015 showed that 1.25 million traffic deaths occur every year. About 90 percent occur in low and middle-income countries in Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia.
The number is higher than the average number of AIDS-related deaths recorded globally each year of 1 million.
The third Sunday of November – Nov. 18 this year – marks the annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR). The day is intended to remember the many millions killed and injured on the world’s roads, together with their families, friends and many others who are also affected.
Bed bound for two months
Not only are traffic accidents one of the main causes of death around world, including in Indonesia, they are also one of the major causes of serious injury.
Intan Andyani, 27, is one such victim. After an accident in 2016, Intan was left bed-bound and was heavily dependent on her family for help eating, drinking and bathing.
“Both of my arms were broken after the minibus I was riding in was hit by a truck,” she recalled.
At the time, Intan, who was finishing up her studies at Padjadjaran University in Sumedang, West Java, was returning to her home in Serpong, South Tangerang, Banten, to collect documents she needed for her undergraduate thesis defense.
However, only an hour into her journey on the Cipularang toll road, which connects West Java with Jakarta, her minibus was hit by a truck. The truck driver claimed that his brakes failed, meaning he was unable to avoid hitting the minibus and another vehicle before coming to a halt on the road separator.
Intan was lucky to only suffer broken arms, as one passenger died on the scene and another was left in a coma for several weeks.
Intan, the other passengers and the driver, were rushed to a nearby hospital in Purwakarta, West Java, however they were moved to hospitals in Jakarta as the hospital lacked the facilities to treat them.
“Despite the fact the hospital is one of the major receivers of traffic accident victims in the area, a hospital official told me they couldn’t perform the surgery to fix my arms because they didn’t have the necessary equipment,” she said.
She has now fully recovered from her physical injuries, but said she would never forget the trauma of that fateful day, and that she was now afraid to take long journeys by car or bus.
“Every time I ride in a bus, the memory of being thrown around in the crash still haunts me even two years after the accident,” she said. (evi)
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Nov. 15, 2018, with the title "Lawlessness main cause of deadly road accidents".