If a reminder to motorists to be alert at all times while driving is needed, then this is it. The high court in Johor Bahru today sentenced a female clerk to six years’ jail and fined her RM6,000 for reckless driving in connection with the deaths of eight teenagers on modified bicycles, or “basikal lajak”, five years ago, FMT reports.

Sam Ke Ting, 27, was found guilty of causing the death of the eight cyclists at Jalan Lingkaran Dalam in Johor Bahru at 3.20 am on Feb 18, 2017. She was ordered to serve another six months in prison if she did not pay the fine, and was also disqualified from driving for three years, the latter effective immediately following the completion of her prison sentence.

She had originally been freed from a charge of reckless driving by the magistrates’ court in Johor Bahru in October 2019, being acquitted and discharged at the end of the prosecution’s case without having her called to the stand for her defence.

The attorney-general’s chambers had then appealed against the decision to acquit Sam, and the Johor Bahru high court ordered her to enter her defence on February 18 last year after allowing the prosecution’s appeal. Sam, who was 22 at the time of the incident, was charged under Section 41 (1) of the Road Transport Act 1987 (Act 333), which carries a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine of RM20,000, upon conviction.

In his decision on the appeal of the case, judge Abu Bakar Katar said the prosecution had succeeded in proving a prima facie case against Sam, as reported by Berita Harian. He also said the trial court was found to have erred in reconsidering the issue raised at the end of the prosecution’s case, with regards to the identity of the driver, admissibility of exhibits and no identification of the victims.

The sad case is a reminder to be extra cautious when driving, especially on unfamiliar roads, because what happened to Sam could well happen to anyone. As magistrate Siti Hajar Ali noted in her judgement back in 2019, Sam was not under the influence of alcohol, was not using her phone and had her seatbelt on while driving, proving that she was driving responsibly and carefully.

The magistrate said it was a dark, hilly and winding road where the driver could not foresee that there would be a bicycle gang on the road at 3am in the morning, and added that the teens had put themselves in danger.

It may be impossible to eliminate the variables, but slowing down and being alert on dark or unfamiliar roads would be the most sensible advice, simply by offering better reaction time in facing any suprises. A dash cam also helps, should there be an incident.