On January 16, Bernama reported “Clouded leopard killed in hit-and-run on Jalan Tapah-Bidor” after the roadkill, estimated to be about 5 to 6-years-old, was discovered by Department of Wildlife and National Parks staff passing through the area.
On January 18, Bernama reported “Calf elephant found dead after hit-and-run incident” after a young male elephant, believed to be between four or five years, was found dead by the roadside at Km11 of the Gerik-Jeli stretch of the East-West Highway.
Both mammals traversed the road under cover of darkness, but motorists were driving at full speed aided by powerful headlights with little consideration for wild animals that may suddenly cross the road from one side of the jungle to another.
The death of these animals was a great loss to the wildlife in the area, more so when their numbers have greatly dwindled and getting rare as the Malayan Tiger, which is the national symbol of Malaysia. The clouded leopard is a protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716).
But why call these collisions hit-and-run? Should drivers involved in such accidents stop, get out of the vehicle and check the condition of the injured animal? If so, other elephants in the herd are likely to attack as they are particularly protective of their calves.
Moreover, waiting at a dark trunk road or even along the emergency lane of expressways have been known to cause more accidents. If a human being had been killed, the vehicle should only be moved after police had completed investigation. Otherwise, drivers and vehicles should not remain at the accident scene and pose a danger to themselves and other road users.
It would be wise for motorists not to stop after an accident if pedestrians or motorcyclists are injured when there are people around. Bystanders can easily turn into an unruly mob and assault drivers involved in accidents, regardless of whose fault it was.
Many do not take into account they did not witness the collision. All they see is the injured writhing in pain and is enough to make their blood boil. In anger, they lose control of themselves, resulting in many drivers being beaten to a pulp and some have died from such beatings, with assailants charged for manslaughter.
When accidents occur on a deserted road, motorists should stop and send the injured to the nearest clinic or hospital. If a parked vehicle is dented, the driver should have the courtesy to leave details of his vehicle so that the other party can opt for private settlement or claim from insurance.
The media should be careful when describing hit-and-run accidents. It is not compulsory to stop after an accident, as reports can be lodged at the police station within 24 hours of the accident occurring. If the public is made to understand that they must stop in the event of an accident, it could result in drivers getting beaten up by unruly individuals.
It could also spur many victims to chase after drivers who do not stop. Apart from such high-speed chases being dangerous, forcing the “runaway” vehicle to stop can have dire consequences. The cornered driver may emerge with a baseball bat to defend himself, and anything can happen when both enraged parties meet face to face.
We should always remember that the driver at fault is not obliged to pay compensation. The aggrieved party can always make an own damage claim without losing the no-claim discount if the vehicle is covered under comprehensive insurance. If not, a third-party claim can be made for repairs to the vehicle and for injuries, if any.
In any case, the term ‘hit-and-run’ should not be used freely, as planting such thoughts in the mind of motorists could lead to dire consequences.
The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader YS Chan from Petaling Jaya