According to the Bukit Aman Traffic Enforcement and Investigation Department, road-related deaths rose throughout the Movement Control Order (MCO)
Meanwhile, the number of reported road fatalities increased in the Conditional MCO (CMCO).
A total of 208 road fatalities were recorded during the first four phases of MCO from 18 March to 4 May. The subsequent two phases of CMCO recorded 299 driving-related deaths from 5 May to 9 June. The numbers highlight that as the movement restrictions were eased, road accidents increased.
The statistics, released by Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on 10 June, cover all six phases of the partial lockdown around the country that started from 18 March and ended on 9 June.
On 10 June, Malaysia entered its next phase to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. This phase — called the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) — has fewer restrictions and will last until 31 August.
In total, 507 people lost their lives to road accidents in Malaysia during the six phases of MCO which ended on 9 June. For context, the period recorded 115 out of all 118 COVID-19 related deaths in Malaysia.
To summarise, more people died due to road accidents than those killed by the coronavirus in 83 days.
And as interstate travel restrictions are now eased, the road accident numbers are expected to further increase, a concern shared by Dr Noor Hisham during his COVID-19 press briefing on Wednesday
"The Health Ministry is concerned with the safety of the public, especially those commuting daily for work, following the reopening of economy, social, and other sectors," the Health DG said.
He emphasised that while road accidents cause loss of life and limbs, they also unnecessarily burden the health facilities, leading to an increase in the number of patients in the emergency wards.
"There will also be an increase in blood transfusion needed normally done for victims with severe injuries," Dr Noor Hisham said while advising the public to drive carefully and avoid driving when tired.
What's the reason behind so many road fatalities during MCO?
The statistics didn't carry any data except for the number of road accidents and deaths.
However, seeing how the numbers may prompt some to assume that drunk-driving could be the reason behind it — despite the fact that driving under the influence (DUI) contributes to a small fraction of total fatal accidents — we decided to take a look at a separate data by the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM).
According to the PDRM statistics recorded between January to May 2020, there were 21 cases of drunk-driving. Out of which eight resulted in deaths, as noted by a Bernama report on 2 June.
If those numbers are taken into account, DUI-related deaths contributed to about 1% of the total road fatalities of 507 people recorded during the partial lockdown period in the country.
To highlight these numbers is not to undermine the loss of life caused by drunk-driving when even a single DUI-related death is too much but to shine a light on the reality versus public perception.
In fact, contrary to public perception, the percentage of death due to drunk-driving has fallen a whopping 96% in the period of six years between 2013 (23.3%) to 2018 (under 1%), according to data provided by the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
Meanwhile, a Malaysian has recently taken to driving around the Klang Valley hoping to discourage others from drinking and driving: