Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ensuring safe drivers during Lebaran exodus

Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, will celebrate the post-fasting month Lebaran, or Eid El Fitr, on July 6.

Of the countrys over 250 million population, more than 85 percent are Muslims.

Many Muslims usually spend the Islamic holidays with relatives in their hometowns, triggering a massive exodus from the cities.

The number of home-bound travelers for Lebaran this year is expected to reach 17,698,484, up from 17,404,575 in 2015.

Of the total, 4.33 million are estimated to use land transportation modes, 3.70 million will travel by ferries, 4.11 million by trains, 910 by ships, and around 4.6 million by airplanes.

The Transportation Ministry has prepared land, sea and air transportation modes to deal with the current exodus which is locally called "mudik."

Some 45 thousand buses, 447 trains with 1,400 carriages, 140 ships and 529 airplanes are being operated to transport millions of Lebaran revelers.

In fact, the home-bound exodus started on June 24 and is expected to peak on July 3.

Last year, some 700 Lebaran travelers were killed in traffic accidents, particularly those involving motorbikes.

The number of Lebaran travelers using motorbikes is estimated to increase by 50 percent to 5.6 million, from 3.7 million last year.

Over the last few years, in fact, the government has encouraged homebound travelers not to use motorcycles for their long journeys home. For this purpose, it has provided free rides by trucks, trains or ships to transport motorcyclists, their co-passengers and motorcycles to their destinations.

Besides, to minimize the number of traffic accidents, the authorities have coordinated to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol while driving or has taken drugs.

The National Drug Agency (BNN) has been carrying out urine tests on drivers, captains and pilots in charge of public transportation services during the Lebaran Islamic holidays.

For the safety of the public, all drivers of land, sea and air transportation means are obliged to undergo urine tests, Senior Commissioner Slamet Pribadi, spokesman of BNN, said recently.

On June 25, a day prior to the International Day Against Drug Abuse, the agency conducted urine tests simultaneously at bus terminals, airports and seaports in several cities

Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan confirmed that crew members of airlines will have to undergo urine tests during the Islamic holiday season to see if any of them use drugs.

He has issued instructions making it obligatory upon airline crew members to undergo urine tests, he said.

Such tests were conducted in Malang, but he did not want to reveal the results.

The crew has to undergo the tests just before the planes departure. If the result is positive, the departure will have to be cancelled.

Furthermore, the minister ordered a strict medical checkup of the drivers of land, air and sea public transportation services to enhance the safety of Lebaran travelers.

The medical checkup for ferry, boat and ship captains began on June 18, the minister said while inspecting the integrated Lebaran Monitoring Command Post at Ngurah Rai International Airport, in Bali, on June 25.

Medical checkups for air and land transportation services began on June 24, he added.

The number of aircraft for this years Lebaran is estimated to increase by 10 to 11 percent, sea vessels between one and two percent, while the number of land vehicles is set to rise between two and three percent.

Minister Jonan said four modes of air, land, sea and railway transportation systems had been readied three months ago. However, some of them were still under examination.

The Transportation Ministry evaluated the seaworthiness of 1,273 ships.

"The examinations are related to the readiness of the means of transportation in order to ensure that the vehicles face no damage and do not endanger passengers," he said.

Preventing traffic jams and improving public safety are part of the ministrys priority programs for Lebaran this year, as ordered by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), Jonan said.

Over the past several months, President Jokowi had inaugurated a number of toll roads in Java as well as Sumatra Islands for the Lebaran exodus, particularly to reduce traffic congestion along Java's northern coastal road (Pantura), which is notorious for severe congestions during the holiday season.

He also warned of bad weather as Indonesia is experiencing a wet dry season due to La Nina, particularly in North Sumatra, West Sumatra, South Sumatra, and Lampung, in addition to Western Java, North Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, and Central Kalimantan.

West Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, North Sulawesi, and Central Sulawesi, apart from Southeast Sulawesi and Papua, are also experiencing the effects of La Nina. (Antara)

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