Hari Raya Aidifiltri will be celebrated in two weeks’ time.
Beginning a week before the festival Malaysia would see one of her largest exodus of the year, as people trickle out of the cities or as we all know as “balik kampung”, traveling back to their hometowns to spend the occasion with their families.
Many would also be taking advantage of the long weekend for a vacation.
In 2016, 20,294 road accidents and 273 fatal incidents were recorded under the traffic safety operation Ops Selamat 9/2016 from June 29 to July 17, in conjunction with the festivity.
Overall our country was listed as among countries in the world with the highest fatal accident rates last year, although the number of fatalities during Ops Selamat 9/2016 decreased from the previous year.
For every 10,000 vehicles registered in the country, 2.55 deaths were recorded.
We aim to reduce this rate to two by 2020.
Our efforts in reducing road tragedies include promoting safer vehicles and roads, besides advocating for safe driving. The Department of Standards Malaysia or Standards Malaysia plays a role in improving consumer safety.
An agency of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Standards Malaysia is the National Standards Body and the National Accreditation Body.
By complying with the standards set by them, consumers can be confident of the “quality, safety, reliability, efficiency, compatibility, cost-effectiveness and sustainability” of products and services across 24 economic sectors.
In transport, Standards Malaysia has developed 252 standards, including our first ever national standard on protective helmets by specifying their minimum performance criteria and test requirements.
This standard is a benchmark in creating quality helmets to protect our motorcyclists on the road.
Other products that have Malaysian Standard (MS) are pneumatic tyres, airbags, seat belts, replacement brakes, lighting and signalling devices and electric motorcycles.
Most of these MS are made mandatory by regulatory bodies such as the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operative and Consumerism, and the Road Transport Department. Out of the 252 MS in transportation, 17 are made mandatory. Consumers can then recognise safe and quality products through their certification labels.
In fact we have just hosted the 39th International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) Committee on Consumer Policy conference last month, where almost 150 delegates from 37 countries discussed their commitment in building safer roads and vehicles for consumers.
Malaysia through Standards Users, a non-profit organisation that represents the interest of users and consumers in standards development and endorsed by Standards Malaysia, is the current Chair of this committee.
Most of the time, standards can facilitate innovation, economic growth and competitiveness in international trade.
In the case of road safety, standards can even save lives.
But I always caution that over time, the government needs to address standards that could grow obsolete, are non-existent when in demand or become so restraining that innovation is discouraged.
In this age where new areas of technology are mushrooming, we need to be responsive to emerging industries that require new standards. In South Korea for example, the authorities are developing novel standards, reforming regulations and reviewing policies in industries such as 5G mobile communications, autonomous vehicles, intelligent robots, smart cities, renewable energy and in productions.
Without agile governance in coping with new technological areas, innovators and businesses would face the evitable barriers of commercialisation, global market entry, international trade and research collaboration.
There will be no common language between the innovators, between governments, and with us the consumers.
There is an appropriate description of the role of government in this – to be like a diligent gardener by pruning her trees and cultivating land for new ones to maximise blooming in the garden. It means doing away with obsolete standards and efficiently developing new ones according to changing times.
However, standards can only do so much in advancing the economy or solving a problem.
It still boils down to us as an individual, a citizen, a consumer. In the event of road safety, most accidents occur due to carelessness or recklessness in driving.
Many of us would be guilty of speeding, not wearing our seatbelts and being distracted by our gadgets while on the wheels.
So when we are homebound this holiday season, let us be more mindful when driving.
It is down to us to raise the “standards” of Malaysian drivers.
Similarly, to achieve progress collectively as a nation, each of us has to set high standards for ourselves – in our attitude, mentality, behaviour, in relationships and at work.
Do you hold yourself to high standards?
Wilfred Madius Tangau.