KUALA LUMPUR: Police are reviewing the way they handle mat rempit to improve ways to control the problem.
With laws on dangerous driving and drugs at their disposal, the Federal Traffic Enforcement and Investigation Department will up the ante against the menace to society by using environmental legislation.
Its deputy director, Superintendent Mustafa Bakri Salleh, said the department would engage the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry more robustly to hold mat rempit liable for noise pollution.
Police had planned more operations to net the daredevils. It is in these operations, code-named Op Samseng Jalanan, that authorities would check their modified machines, mainly exhaust pipes tweaked to induce loud noise, which mat rempit favour to give the impression that their bikes were powerful.
Under the law, generated noise that goes beyond 75dB (decibel) is considered “pollution”.
A technical team from the ministry, which would be part of the enforcement team, would carry out on-the-spot tests for action to be taken under Section 23 of the Environmental Quality Act 1974.
Under the act, offenders can be slapped with a maximum fine of RM100,000 or jailed not more than five years, or both.
Mustafa told the New Straits Times that a loophole in the law allowed mat rempit to take back their modified bikes once the legal process was concluded.
Although this did not help in efforts to prevent them from diving straight back into the illicit activity, the law did not allow the police to remove the modifications or compel the machine owners to remove them.
He, however, added that there were no plans to review the Road Transport Act 1987.
“Seized modified motorcycles are usually returned to the offenders’ families. We usually advise the offenders’ family members to restore the bikes to the original specifications.”
Offences under Section 42(1) of the Road Transport Act 1987 carry up to five years’ mandatory jail and fines between RM5,000 and RM15,000.
He said police also relied on Section 279 of the Penal Code, which carries a maximum jail term of six months, to tackle racing and reckless riding among mat rempit. Those convicted could be liable to a RM2,000 maximum fine, or both.
The issue of mat rempit came under the spotlight again when Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar voiced his displeasure with the motorcyclists who used the stretch in Jalan Pantai Lido in Johor Baru as their racing track.
He said patients at nearby Sultanah Aminah Hospital suffered sleepless nights due to the loud noise.
The New Straits Times went to several locations in the Klang Valley where the group would gather and rev their engines before blazing down the roads.
They had little respect for road users as they wove their way between cars at break-neck speed.
The thrill seekers went to the extent of tempting fate, beating the red light even as vehicles were coming in their direction.
In Jalan Raja Laut, the sight of a stationary police patrol car by the roadside did not deter them.
It is an open secret and a great worry for many road users that certain stretches along the New Klang Valley Expressway, Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway and the Federal Highway have long become the choice spots for mat rempit.
In 2016, police had conducted 4,227 operations against mat rempit nationwide. The number increased to 5,140 last year. The arrests of mat rempit increased from 755 people in 2016 to 865 last year.
Police, said Mustafa, were expected to mount more operations and enhance their presence to deter the group from racing on public roads.
“The mat rempit culture will continue as long as parents don’t play their vital roles in monitoring their children. The culture has been passed on from generation to generation.
“They do what they do for cheap thrills and to show off their skills doing wheelies, superman (lying on the stomach while riding) and scorpion (the rider stands on one foot during a wheelie).
“We can only do so much to address the issue, but other parties, including schools and parents, must help prevent the kids from joining such activities.”