Roads of Death

The shocking number of lives lost on Bali’s roads is a result of overwhelming police inaction and an innate failure among the population to adhere to – or even learn – the rules.

Corruption is to blame, too, because it means that licence-seekers can circumvent required driving theory and practical tests and get a licence with no knowledge of road rules at all.

Above all it is the lack of any real measure of enforcement of the rules that simply allows motorists get away with any violations, and sadly it continues to be the case that if people are pulled over, there is usually a swift and relatively painful method of extricating themselves from trouble.

With the rapid swelling of vehicles on Bali’s roads, fuelled by the tourism increase and the economic boom that comes with it, the situation is more perilous than ever, and new road deaths unfortunately confirm this, with an average of around eight people dying each day.

Police have said they are “concerned” about the rise in deaths, but as with many such statements from officials, while there is indeed worry, very rarely is there any real and sustained action to combat it.

The stark fact that very young children are permitted to ride motorbikes – when in many cases their short legs cannot even reach the ground – without helmets and too young to apply for licences, is a damming indictment of the police. Under law, every motorcyclist and their passengers must wear helmets; yet the rule is ignored for Hindus in traditional headdress.

The public will not follow road rules – or any, for that matter – unless there are tangible penalties for not doing so. Along with providing a real and working police presence on the streets and roads of Bali, new police chief Totoy Herawan Indra should consider installing monitoring cameras at all major intersections.

These cameras, a common feature of many other countries, would be connected to a system enabled to detect violators and record their vehicle number plates. Fines or court summonses would be issued by mail. Such a measure would greatly force motorists to be much more mindful and drive with caution.

The Bali Police realise that road deaths are a major problem on this island. But in order to reduce this human tragedy, they need to start doing more than merely making statements of concern.

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One Response to “Roads of Death”

  1. Mark Ulyseas Says:

    Dear Editor

    I wrote about Bali’s Roads of Death in my column Paradox in Paradise nearly 3 or 4 years ago. Nothing has changed and nothing will, until motorcycles are impounded indefinitely, people fined up to one million rupiah and policemen caught taking bribes, sacked. The stick is what people understand.

    But is there political will to implement this strategy?

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