What new initiatives is MIROS involved in?

WONG: We are working on the NCAP programme, which targets nations across the ASEAN region. NCAP stands for New Car Assessment Programme and its purpose is to assess the safety level of the car. We have adopted the methodology of the NCAP from Europe and Australia. The programme sets the minimum requirement that all vehicles on the road have to comply with. However, there will be certain manufactures who try to put extra effort to make the car safer. In my opinion, this will give a proper channel to recognize such initiatives. Once a vehicle is manufactured, it receives a star-based rating. The safest vehicle will receive 5 stars and the least safe will receive 0 stars. We believe that these ratings will provide valuable information to the consumer when purchasing a car. Nevertheless, this is a very objective assessment, whereby the information is transparent, available on the web, and anyone who wishes to file more after a crash or a test drive, should fell free.

MIROS is also working on other initiatives. For instance, we get involved with the development of ISO 39001, which is the international standard on road traffic safety management systems. In that perspective we are collaborating with other countries. We called the project committees of the member countries of the ISO. MIROS has been working closely with others to get this standard developed. At the moment, we are at its final stage and it should be published by the end of 2012. While we are waiting for this project to be finalized, we started some projects in Malaysia. Fortunately, we got a few organizations to work hand-in-hand with us. The success of the project will not only bring benefits this organization, but will also set a very good example for other to follow. Eventually, the public, as well as the respective organization, will benefit from it. At MIROS we believe that road safety has to come not only from individual organizations or authorities, but it should come from everybody. We are building a new facility, which will start operations for the new NCAP programme. MIROS is progressively enhancing the scope of our operating facilities. Thanks to the instrumented dummies we are able to recreate a car crash in order to assess the safety levels. With the NCAP we are able to share the findings with the consumer. We believe that this is much needed information because if you do not have knowledge about safety, how can you value safety.

What are MIROS’ latest statistical findings? How would you describe progress on improving road safety?

WONG: To put together an appropriate index has been a struggle not only for MIROS, but also for the Ministry. Unfortunately, we can hardly find a universal index on which all will agree upon. There has been a lot of effort, but we are still waiting for the results to come. At MIROS, we believe that we have to bring down the fatalities and if possible bring them to 0. There have been a lot of initiatives in this regard in other countries such as the US. We will try our best to keep up with such initiatives until the day this rate goes to 0. One of the indicators to measure our performance is the number of deaths. Some might argue that this is not a relevant index, as the population and the number of vehicles and roads grow. Thus, we increase the indicators as they progress. Furthermore, there are suggestions that we should use an index based on fatalities per 10,000 registered vehicles or fatalities per 100,000 populations. There are some setbacks with those suggestions, but for the time being we are using as a reference the fatalities per 10,000 registered vehicles index. In 2011 we were at 3.2 fatalities per 10,000 registered vehicles. In comparison to 2010, we have moved from 3.4 down to 3.2. Since Malaysia is quite motorized, we are talking about an average of 2 vehicles per family. The reason why we are looking into this is that when there are more cars on the road, the exposure to incidents will be higher. We are also trying to keep track of other indicators that represent fatalities per Billion Vehicle Kilometer Traveled (VKT).

In terms of the number of fatalities we have early studies that were published in 2005 before MIROS was established. Based on the available data from the year 2000, we put up a prediction on the number of fatalities for 2010. At that time our prediction was 8,481 fatalities. In 2010, we managed to bring this number down to 6,877. Despite the results, we are still not satisfied with the situation. Based on the data up to 2010, if we do exactly what we have been doing in 2010, the number of fatalities in 2020 will grow to 10,716. We made a commitment to the UN Declaration of Action, whereby we should be able to cut our fatalities rate in half by 2020. Whit this in mind our target is to reduce our numbers by 5,000. We hope that we will be able to achieve it in 2020.

The government has invested in numerous public transportation initiatives and road upgrades. Which new infrastructure investments are most vital to Malaysia’s transportation network?

WONG: It is a well-known fact that public transportation is by far a safer mode of transportation. Some argue that there are bus crashes as well. When you look at the statistics, bus is still safer than a passenger’s car and much safer compared to motorcycles. Rail is a safer method of transportation than bus and the safest is the airplane. In Malaysia we have the National Key Result Areas (NKRAs), whereby public transport has been identified as one of the very important areas that we should focus on. Through the initiative under the NKRA, we have been putting a lot of effort and resources to enhance our rail transport. Unfortunately, to build a rail infrastructure takes time. However, Malaysia is embarking with its Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project not only to upgrade our existing rails system, but also to enhance and build a new rail system. It will take years to see the benefits from this project. Meanwhile, we are executing projects to enhance the existing bus and rail system. In addition to these initiatives, we are working on the efficiency of the bus system. With such initiatives we believe that we will be able to shift people’s opinion about the public mode of transport. In Kuala Lumpur, we have the electric train, the Light Rail Transit (LRT), and the Monorail. Once MRT is completed, it will be integrated to the existing system to a certain extent.

How does road safety differ across Malaysia’s different States and Federal Territories?

WONG: This is a very challenging area because we cannot rely on a single Ministry or agency when it comes to road safety. It has to come as a systemic approach and utilize whatever available resources are out there. It also requires a lot of discipline in terms of the work of researchers, engineers, social scientists, psychologists, medical doctors, and economists. To get things implemented we need the support across the different federal, state, and municipal levels, as well as the Ministries, agencies, NGOs, and even the media. Another important aspect is to equip the users with certain knowledge in order to make road safety a priority for them. Therefore, we need help from all of our partners, at all governmental levels, in addition to external organizations and industry as well.

How is MIROS working with similar agencies in other countries?

WONG: In road safety we need to establish alliances with other agencies, especially with international agencies. By cooperating with foreign institutions we can exchange expertise. In the mission and vision of MIROS, it is stated that we should be moving out of Malaysia in order to share knowledge with other countries. There is a lot to be learned and we would like to have access to more data. For instance, our local problem is the motorcycles. This is unique to our region as in comparison to Europe or the US. MIROS can learn a lot from those who have already put a lot of effort and have achieved a lot of progress in terms of road safety. We should be able to exchange this information and befit from it. We have always believed that partnership is a very important issue in road safety. Thus, we look forward to establishing real and solid partnerships with anybody, even out of Malaysia.