KUALA LUMPUR: Parents of underage children caught driving without a driver's licence should be held accountable and made to face severe legal consequences for endangering the lives of their children and other motorists.
Associate Professor Dr Rozmi Ismail, an expert in traffic psychology at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, proposed that the Road Transport Department (RTD) carry out a mass campaign to remind parents that they would not be spared from enforcement actions for negligence.
"On paper, our laws covered most aspects, including penalty for vehicle owners who allow individuals without a licence to drive the vehicle.
"However, the situation has been very much the same for many years now and parents will usually plead ignorance when questioned by the law enforcers.
"Such excuse is unacceptable because the safety of their children, along with other motorists, is at risk the moment they hit the road."
To show the gravity of the offence, he said, such parents should be brought to court and held responsible for their children's actions.
He said drivers were required to attend both theory and physical classes, as well as an on-the-road test by RTD officers to determine whether they were capable of handling the vehicles and practise safe driving.
"We go through these processes at the driving school to learn about traffic laws that are meant to protect all road users and ensure safe travel.
"Unlicensed drivers, especially children, lack this knowledge and skills, and do not fully understand the logic behind certain rules such as slowing down near intersections and the right-of-way.
"This could lead to accidents and, even worse, fatalities," Rozmi said.
Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros) director-general Datuk Dr Khairil Anwar Abu Kassim said its study on young motorcyclists found that 62.6 per cent of the parents who participated in the survey had no objection to their children riding the machine without a licence on the road.
The research, conducted in 2019 based on self-reported questionnaires, was aimed to determine whether behavioural factors such as aberrant behaviour, risk-taking and speeding intention could increase the risk on the road among young motorcyclists.
"The findings showed that a majority of the participants, or 62.4 per cent of them, were unlicensed and the mean age of their first ride was 12.75 years old.
"Rural areas showed the highest unlicensed rate at 59 per cent compared with urban areas at 41 per cent.
"Accident rates (among the respondents) were the highest in rural areas at 57.3 per cent compared with 42.7 per cent in urban areas," he told the New Straits Times.
He said 921 students from 32 secondary schools in rural and urban areas were involved in the study.
He said Miros had been conducting awareness programmes to educate the public on road safety, including Road Safety Education, in which Miros was involved with the development of the Road Safety Education module that inculcated safe riding for students who had a motorcycle licence.
He said the public could go to Miros office to learn about the various safety tools and courses available under its Pemerkasaan Pengguna Jalan Raya Malaysia programme.
These include a driving simulator, seatbelt convincer, Road Safety Education modules, short courses on vehicle maintenance, use of safety helmets and awareness on fatigue.
"Under the Pro-Riders programme, we provide training on safe riding and motorcycle maintenance to reduce road crashes involving motorcyclists.
"The Pro-Drivers programme also provides Defensive Driving training for motorists on safe driving and how to control a situation on the road to prevent accidents."
He added that Miros also carried out community-based programmes such as the one organised in Kajang to address the road safety-related issues within the community, adding that it was part of implementing the recommendations of the Miros study.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong was quoted as saying that both the driver and vehicle owner would be held responsible in cases of underage driving and driving without a licence.
A total of 347,300 offences were committed by those driving vehicles without a driver's licence from January 2009 to May this year.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of a RM3,000 fine and three months' jail under Section 26 (1) of the Road Transport Act 1987. Vehicle owners may also have their machines seized.
In May, a 16-year-old student who drove a multi-purpose vehicle without a licence was arrested after causing an accident in Sungai Petani, Kedah.
The teenager crashed into two grass cutters who were resting by the roadside.
One of them died at the scene, and the other died two days later.