When people take a calculated risk while driving, it usually pays off. Our minds are amazing things that do calculations so quickly we don’t even have to think. We can immediately figure out if we can squeeze through a gap, overtake before a truck comes and generally weave our way through safely.
But it’s when a motorcycle, laden with two adults and two small kids roars directly in front of you without so much as a sideways glance, that this natural hand-eye coordination doesn’t even come into play. This is just idiocy, stupidity and total lack of education and discipline. And I hate it.
Over the post Lebaran holidays Jakarta was supposed to be quiet, with people off visiting their home towns in the annual “mudik”, but actually it wasn’t, it was full of people on motorbikes taking their families on suicide journeys. Everyone was in their finest clothes, the bikes laden with people and gifts, wobbling and shaking, unstable and overloaded, but it was their astonishing behavior that has left me now more disappointed than ever.
No-one obeyed the traffic signals at all. Red lights simply didn’t exist. One way streets became two way, right turns from left lanes compulsory - all to hasten the journey to visit the family, but flirting with death all the way.
But the reason that I hate it is not just for the safety of the children but because if anything happens, we the car drivers are at fault, and if you are a foreigner driving a car, heaven help you, the hospital bills are yours, the compensation, the hassle. No escape.
But there’s more to it even than this. It shows that not only are people ignorant of the laws, they simply don’t care, and neither do those charged with upholding them. The most likely reason to be fined while driving a motorcycle? Dangerous driving? Driving under the influence of drugs? Driving under age? All okay. Driving a machine that can be heard a kilometer away? Okay. Pouring out noxious fumes? Okay. No, it’s not having a valid licence! No concern for safety or security, this is simply not the priority. It’s just the money.
And of course it’s all curable. It will take some effort but it can be done. Create a brand new law requiring (like Singapore!) a Certificate of Entitlement to drive a motorcycle. To get it, you need to pass a rigorous test, a real one this time, have your bike tested for noise, pollution and safety and register on an online “endorsement score card” which will note who you are and your traffic safety record. You will need to give ALL your information.
When anyone, and I mean anyone, spots an idiot driving, a simple mobile phone pic of the offender’s licence plate will trigger a required response to the offender (since everyone now has a mobile phone!). If there is none then there’s an automatic points deduction, and if there is, then they need to go to a police station to report their actions. Lose ten points and you lose your COE. Get caught with no COE and you’re in prison.
Drastic? Yes, but haven’t you honestly had enough too? It’s time to take back the streets.
Alistair G. Speirs