SHAH ALAM – Over the years, many fatal accidents have taken place near the Menora Tunnel on the North-South Expressway (NSE) in Perak, dubbed one of Malaysia’s killer stretches.
The Menora Tunnel or Meru-Menora Tunnel is a 800-metre highway tunnel with two tunnels side by side for both traffic directions, and it has claimed many lives.
On Wednesday, five Universiti Sultan Azlan Shah (USAS) students were killed in an accident involving a Honda City and two trailers at KM245.2 of the NSE at about 12.52am.
Preliminary police investigations showed that a north-bound trailer carrying mosaic tiles traveled on the right lane as the left lane between KM246 and KM244.4 was closed for maintenance.
The Honda City carrying the students was behind the trailer when another trailer loaded with iron fences rammed into the car, causing it to burst into flames.
In 2018, the Transport Ministry revealed that there were 564 cases of road accidents recorded in the tunnel, with seven fatal accidents that claimed 11 lives.
Although there were no recent statistics that showed the fatal accidents that took place on the stretch, there were many accidents reported throughout the years.
Most of the accidents near the infamous tunnel took place in the middle of the night, involving buses, trailers, trucks, superbike, and cars.
It was reported that the Road Transport Department (RTD), in collaboration with PLUS Malaysian Berhad (PLUS) installed Automatic Awareness Security System (AWAS) cameras near the highway stretches so that motorists would slow down in an effort to minimise accident rates at the area.
Authorities had also installed additional safety features such as light-emitting lights in the area, removed the toll plaza and readjusted the stretch for those exiting in Ipoh to avoid collisions, yet horrible accidents still occur near Menora Tunnel.
Road safety expert Associate Professor Dr Law Teik Hua from Universiti Putra Malaysia when contacted said road management should be done as the road structure is hilly and there were many heavy vehicles that travelled via the route.
“Frequent maintenance should be done to ensure that the road conditions are safe for the users.
“For drivers, I believe that most of the drivers should know to drive slowly when travelling and make sure that they are not too close to another vehicle,” he said.
Commenting specifically on the incident that killed five students on Wednesday, he said that the accident might have been caused by driver’s error as the car was allegedly hit by the trailer driver at full speed.
“The truck driver may not have paid attention during the incident.
“However, the (structure of the road at) Menora tunnel itself could be a reason, there are possibilities of brake release or failure as the road is downhill,” he told Sinar Daily.
He said a thorough investigation needs to be conducted to find out the actual reason behind the accident.
“Is it because of long hours of drive by the truck drivers? We have no idea where the truck driver was from and how long he had been travelling,” he said.
Dr Law also called for the RTD to impose a driving time limit and an additional co-driver for trailer drivers on long-haul journeys as an effort to reduce accidents in the country.
“We can set a time limit where truck drivers must stop at a rest area after certain hours of driving.
“Also, co-drivers should be provided as some journeys may take longer than expected,” he said, adding that it would be safer with co-drivers provided as the drivers could swap places when they felt tired or unable to continue the drive.
Most accidents, Law said, happened at night so this was why the truck drivers should have a time limit.
He urged the RTD to look into the suggestions and for highway concessionaires to install more warning signs along the road, especially on high-risk roads.
In the incident, the five victims were identified Muhammad Nasrun Aidol Munir Akbar, 22, who was driving the car, front passenger Ahmad Naim Najmi Ahmad Hafizan, 21, while three others, Muhammad Nabil Haikal Muhammad Fariz, 19, Ahmad Akmal Ahmad Mokhlis, 20, and Iqbal Hasnun Halimi, 23, were seated in the back.
The 28-year-old trailer driver was arrested yesterday and had been remanded for four days. He was being investigated under Section 41(1) of the Road Transport Act 1987.
The RTD revealed that the trailer driver had nine offences records, with eight ‘settled’ and another still active.