Mat Rempits have been creating menace on the public roads − doing illegal races, pulling off dangerous stunts and daredevil moves, that it even caught the attention of multiple MotoGP world champion and professional motorcyclist Valentino Rossi during one of his visits here.
The Italian dubbed one of the most successful motorcyclists of today, made a remark that he would not dare pull off such stunts whether on a racing track or on the roads because it is against his safety culture.
"Bikers in Europe are more disciplined and tolerant. The bikers there wait for their turn to pass an intersection or traffic lights and they don't ride between lanes of moving traffic or against the flow," said the racing master, as reported by theSun.
So where did we go wrong? Could it be that the rempit has become a culture here, and do we really lack safety enforcements on our roads that uncivilised motorcyclists are easily allowed to break the rules and continue menacing around towns and highways as they please?
European Vs Malaysian Motorcycling Culture
From an international standpoint, we approached the Italian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to confirm Rossi’s reaction and find out what are the differences that result in European motorcyclists being more well-mannered.
The embassy acknowledged how in Italy, “Italians tend to be quite aggressive and sporty while riding on the road; but, with increased traffic congestions, people are now more aware of risks and try to minimise chances of getting injured by slowing down and wearing protective gears and equipment these days.”
And speaking of illegal racing, the embassy informed Malaysian Digest that it also exists in Italy; however, “it happens far less now compared to in the past.”
In addition to Rossi’s comments about Mat Rempits, the embassy notes that it is also almost similar to Italy in the past; however, the recent generation have become more conscious and less prone to this type of risky behaviour.
Explaining further, they shared how in Italy, riding licenses for 50cc can be acquired at 14 years of age; 125cc at 16, and there are no limitations from 18 onwards. And although there remain a group of avid motorcyclists, the current generation are no longer ‘crazy’ over riding bikes.
“Our motorcycles are fast and powerful; but, without regulations – even the mandatory use of the helmet was introduced in Italy only in the late 80s.
“Many motorcycle owners were modifying the engine and parts of their bikes to make them more powerful and with better performances.
“However, in the 90s, due to increasing traffic congestion, the introduction of stricter laws and regulations to limit the power (motorcycles) and to contain the pollution, the increasing cost of bikes and fuels, the vast majority of the drivers went back to a more practical and less "emotional" relationship with the two wheels.
“Especially in big towns, there are a lot more scooters and mopeds than big bikes; as the younger generation are more attracted to the latest gadgets instead of the latest motorcycle models,” the embassy detailed.
And when it comes to road rules, in Italy, “riders who are caught breaking the traffic law will have to pay fines and points are deducted from their license – in which, upon reaching 20 points, the license will be suspended and the rider needs to repeat the riding test,” they added.
Sharing with Malaysians some words of advice, they reminded: “Street racing is very risky, not just for a motorcyclist, but mainly for the common road users who might be seriously injured or killed – therefore, racing should be confined to dedicated private spaces where nobody is at risk.”
It also observed that, the type of protective gears commonly used by Malaysian riders is not up to safety standards.
“Much more attention should be given to this issue − helmet, jackets and pads can save many lives,” the embassy concluded.
Meanwhile, Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, the Chairman of Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE), is of the opinion that the culture of motorcyclists here compared to in Europe does not defer much, as it ultimately boils down to an individual’s background, and not so much of whether they come from a developed country or lack safety culture and so forth.
“Like motorists, there are good and bad ones. Road ethics is upheld if one feels responsible to other motorists,” she opined, adding most of the Mat Rempits here are youngsters without any direction nor goals, and come from a bad upbringing as well as succumb to peer pressure.
The points by Noor Azimah was strengthened with quotes by our Father of Independence Tunku Abdul Rahman, emphasising education:
“The standard of education must be kept high. Only with education can young men appreciate the true value of life and give their undivided loyalty to the country of their birth.
“I always say that to eat half-cooked rice is a danger to the health, and a person with bad health will not have a healthy body and a healthy mind. Half-educated people therefore will be more of a risk to the nation’s security than to its well-being and peace.” − As a Matter of Interest
And while she affirms good educations is best, “Education alone is not the only factor that plays the role in resolving this problem – parents, most importantly, must start playing their role in educating their children.
“Maybe these problems are a result of bullying in schools – they are seeking attention – or are just insecure,” she highlighted.
What Local Motorcyclists Have To Say About Mat Rempits
Like Noor Azimah, superbikers from the LMK Bikers team, Raja Muhammad Ali Danial Othman and Hansen Wong Sheng Yun believe the problem stems from attitude, and both detest the rempit culture as it only brings trouble for everyone, voicing out how important it is for bikers to take into account safety measures first and foremost.
According to Danial, “I believe that rempits become rempits because of two reasons; one, they don’t have discipline, and two, they cannot afford superbikes and do not have the opportunity to race on real racing tracks.”
He also addressed that, for somebody to begin riding a superbike, say for example 500cc bikes, it is important to start “from a kapcai” bike – take it step-by-step – as it will be dangerous for other road users if one cannot handle their bike.
Danial also commented that Mat Rempits have little respect for the elders and the authorities, commenting on the daring attitude they display when confronted by the authorities.
“Imagine this, they ram straight through roadblocks!,” he exclaimed.
Adding on, Danial relayed, “It is not about what you ride; but how you ride it,” referring to the importance of a person’s character preceding the value of his/her bike.
On the other hand, Hansen believes before going for a ride, motorcyclists must ensure safety comes first.
“Before I go on a ride, I always make sure that I am in complete gear and my ride is in good condition,” he explained.
“Also, it is important that if you are riding in a group, everyone in the convoy must understand the common rule as to avoid unwanted situations,” he pointed out.
Stricter Law Enforcement Is Needed
While enriching education and enhancing safety measures are clearly highlighted by our interviewees as resolves to the Mat Rempit culture, stricter laws need to be implemented and harsher enforcement is required to put an end to these menaces.
“The control is in its enforcement which has to be strict as well as punitive, for example, the immediate revocation of their riding license and prohibition to obtain a new license for the next five years is lauded.
“Or, the immediate confiscation of the motorcycles which will only be released after the payment of hefty fines of more than RM1,000 without discount – this should act as a stiff deterrent,” Noor Azimah asserted.
In support of her comments, former Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan expressed to Malaysian Digest that these “ill-disciplined individuals (Mat Rempits) need to be highly monitored.”
“After getting penalised and fined for traffic offences, follow-up actions are needed to discipline them in order for them to not repeat the same offence,” he stressed.
Musa then suggested a few pointers for the police force in order to curb this rempit activity.
“First of all, the police should conduct operations to monitor where these illegal racings usually take place.
“And secondly, once penalised, these rempits should be sent to attend road courses under the Road Transport Department (JPJ) or community service – so they will become more aware of the dangers of illegal racing.”
In addition, he also urged for stricter penalties to be imposed on traffic offenders who cause trouble to other road users.
What You Should Do If You Encounter Mat Rempits
A recent case last October involved two Mat Rempits who ran over a homeless man crossing the road at Jalan Persiaran Raja Muda Musa, Shah Alam, which resulted in his head being decapitated and his body left severely injured.
In the same month, a couple claimed they were chased by a gang of Mat Rempits on the Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP), and had their car windows broken and tires torn, as reported by New Straits Times.
When asked on the rights of motorists and what can be done should they encounter a situation involving Mat Rempits, Musa said, “Do not take matters into your own hands. Do not confront these racers as they will outnumber you, the situation will escalate – and they will hurt you.
“If they (Mat Rempits) inflict physical harm, they should be charged under the Section 351 of the Penal Code for assault.”
“Head straight to the nearest police station, lodge a police report and let the police take action,” he further advised.
Concluding, the former IGP highlighted that motorists should firmly abide to traffic laws – to ensure that the road is convenient for everyone.