When I was a kid, I used to love visiting my grandmother’s house.
She lived in a quiet little kampung area with barely any cars. Every morning, I would take my crappy old bicycle out of the shed and go to the top of a big, steep hill near her house to zoom down at high speeds. It was super fun feeling the wind blowing past as I peddled my little legs as fast as they could go.
But one morning, just as I was doing my usual ride down the hill, a car showed up from around the corner. I panicked, and because the bike’s brakes weren’t working properly, I had to slam my feet onto the road to try to slow down.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan — the bike stopped, but I didn’t.
To this day, I’m not sure if the driver was just not paying attention or if he saw a screaming little kid go flying over his car and just went “Nah, I’m not dealing with this today“. Whatever the case may be, the car continued merrily along its way while I momentarily achieved flight before crashing back into the ground at terminal velocity.
Somehow, I managed to survive, but I lost half a tooth in the process — the damn thing literally cracked in half because I had slammed into the ground face first. I crawled back to my feet and limped back to my grandmother’s house, sobbing and spitting blood all the way.
When my mother saw my bleeding, snot covered face, she literally screamed in shock and ran to call a doctor. Fortunately, my tooth was the worst injury. The rest were all just scrapes and bruises. One of my grandmother’s neighbours was even kind enough to go pick up the bike from where I’d left it lying on the ground.
When all was said and done, I had been very lucky to get off as easy as I had. But some kids can’t say the same.
Not All Reckless Little Biker Kids Get This Lucky
At 3.20am on 18 February 2017, 22-year old Sam Ke Ting was driving down Jalan Lingkaran Dalam, Johor Bahru when she collided into a group of teens racing ‘basikal lajak’ (modified bikes). Eight of the teens were killed and another eight injured, all of them between the ages of 13 and 17.
Despite not being drunk or speeding, Sam was detained by the police. A month later, she was charged with reckless driving under Section 41 (1) of the Road Transport Act 1987.
Since then, she has been acquitted twice in the Magistrate Court in 2019 and 2021 after the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case and prove its case beyond reasonable doubt respectively.
To put it simply, the prosecutors attempted to send her to jail twice, but failed to do so as they could not prove that she was actually being a reckless driver.
Third Time’s The Charm: Why Are We Talking About This Case in 2022?
On 13 April 2022, the High Court sentenced Sam to six years in jail and a RM6,000 fine. She will serve an extra six months of jail time if she fails to pay the fine and is additionally forbidden from driving for three years.
Her lawyer called for a stay of execution as he planned to file an appeal, but High Court Judge Datuk Abu Bakar Katar rejected the request and demanded that Sam start her sentence immediately.
“The respondent should have driven carefully instead driving fast, causing the accident and she should have realised that the area’s lighting was not bright at around 3.20am,” said Abu Bakar before laying down the sentence.
Justice Served At Last?
For the families of the eight dead racers, this sentencing has given their children the justice they deserved.
During an interview at her home, Sabariah Yusof, mother of 16-year old victim Mohamad Azhar Amir, described how she sometimes imagined that her son was still at home.
“When I woke up in the morning, I felt like waking him up to go to school, imagining he was still there. I also did not move the bed he always slept in, it is still there.
“I was devastated the woman who caused the crash was released. I didn’t realise that today she was sentenced! I feel very grateful that justice is served, this feeling is indescribable. However, I accept this as fate and God’s test,” she said.
Another family member who spoke up was Salman Ahmed, father of 15-year old survivor Muhamad Arif. He described how his now 20-year old son had suffered serious injuries and was traumatised by the accident.
“He can’t look at bicycles, talk about the accident or even look at the pictures (of the crash). It would stress him out and he would not be able to sleep. It is a relief (the woman) was sentenced. I can never forget the accident for as long as I live,” he said.
But Not Everyone Is Pleased With This Decision
During her interview, Sabariah described how she had suffered emotional distress after hearing how many Malaysians were blaming the victim’s parents for allowing their children to be out racing so late at night.
“I feel miserable when people condemned him as he was a very good son and very close to me,” she said. “He seldom rode the bicycle as he would help me sell pudding every night at nearby stalls. On that fateful day, he had come home, left the house and got involved in the fatal crash.”
Since Sam’s sentencing, Malaysians have found themselves divided. While some sympathise with the victim’s families, others feel that Sam’s punishment is unjustly harsh. Multiple petitions with titles such as #FreeSamKeTing and Justice for Sam Ke Ting have been started online to show support and argue that the charges laid against Sam were unfair.
As of the time of writing, both of the petitions listed above have over 800,000 signatures.
Was Sam Ke Ting Really Reckless?
During her court case in 2019, Magistrate Siti Hajar Ali noted that despite the late hour, Sam had not been driving under the influence of alcohol and was not using her phone. She even had her seatbelt on and her recorded speed was 44.5km/h — far below the speed limit of a highway.
If this counts as “reckless” driving, then how many other Malaysian drivers are about to go to jail?
“Millions of motorists have the right to know clearly what constitutes as reckless driving under Section 41 of the Road Transport Act 1987 (Act 333),” Muda Vice-President Lim Wei Jiet said in a statement on 14 April 2022.
Describing the High Court’s decision as a “worrying precedent”, he pointed out that if this was the definition of reckless driving, then any Malaysian who had to drive at night should be afraid of ending up in a similar situation.
If The Driver Can Be Punished, What About the Parents?
According to Bukit Aman Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department (JSPT), between 2009 and 2020, no less than 2,688 children between the ages of six to 15 years old were killed as a result of riding motorcycles.
To put it in perspective, the minimum age to obtain a motorcycle license in Malaysia is 16 years old.
Ironically, one of the latest cases was reported on 13 April 2022 — the same day that Sam’s sentenced was declared. Three “kapcai” riders aged between 14 and 15 years old died after colliding with each other while racing in Jeli, Perak.
Commenting on these cases, Lawyer Nor Zabetha Muhammad Nor argued that parents and guardians needed to be more responsible about the welfare of their children.
“As long as they are under 18, then it is the responsibility of the parents or guardian, adoptive families or grandparents,” she said during an interview with Free Malaysia Today.
“Sometimes parents may think their teenagers are mature and so they give them freedom. Freedom to be in relationships, to have fun, to ride motorcycles without a licence.”
She suggested that the parents of those taking part in illegal racing activities could be charged under Section 31(1)(a) of the Child Act 2001 for “negligence or neglect of responsibility”. The punishment for those found guilty under this act would be a fine of not more than RM50,000, a jail sentence of up to 20 years or both.
When asked about Sam’s case, Nor Zabetha expressed sympathy for the victim’s families, but pointed out that “this could have been avoided had the teenagers been under proper care and supervision of their parents”.
“Parents should take care of their children and make sure they are home and not on the road after dark,” she said.
Driving On Malaysian Roads is Already Difficult Enough
Personally, I hate driving on Malaysian roads. Every time I go out, I have to deal with traffic jams, bad weather and worst of all, other drivers. Now I need to worry about a bunch of unsupervised kids riding bikes in the middle of the road as well?
No matter what the results of this case, there are still going to be plenty of reckless kids riding their souped up bikes all across Malaysia. It’s more important than ever before to remain vigilant when you’re on the road, especially if you’re driving at night.
To learn more about staying safe while driving, check out: