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Rise in Food Delivery Road Accidents : a cause for concern amidst this COVID crisis?

It concerns me deeply that there is an increase in road accidents for food delivery riders last year (2019).

In fact, based on an unofficial daily tally, I note that the numbers have been increasing since 2016. Last year alone, there were 12 reported cases as compared to only 3 cases between 2016 and 2017.

I had also read that a 42-year-old GrabFood delivery rider lost his life in Dec 2019 after his motorcycle collided with an 800 Super truck.

As a lawyer working in a firm that handles accident claims on behalf of victims involved in such accidents, this upward trend is worrying. The reality is that these riders are made even more vulnerable with the increased exposure as more home delivery orders are placed.

What is worse is that during this period of the circuit breaker measures, one can expect even more of such home delivery orders. As such, these riders who are on the clock will be travelling more frequently on the road.

Although the traffic flow will be relatively more moderate as only those who are working in essential industries are on the road, the risk of greater exposure can however only translate into greater risk of accident due to the urgency to meet orders in the limited time given.

So, when frequency meets urgency, the reality of reduced traffic flow may not be much of a mitigation against traffic accidents from happening.

In an article written by Malavika Menon, entitled “Delivery riders seem to be getting into more accidents, ST poll finds”, one GrabFood rider Ramadan Samat expresses this point of concern well when he said: “Food delivery riders often work long and odd hours and suffer from fatigue. We also have to deal with impatient customers who press us to deliver their food fast.”

Samat himself admitted that he had several close calls on the job.

Personally, I recall recently representing a client who was only 17 years old. He was riding his bicycle to make a delivery. He told me he earns more if he could make the delivery within a deadline.

But this sadly proved deadly when he was rushing to make it on time and collided into a senior citizen who was taking an evening stroll. The victim later passed on and my underaged client was charged for riding in a negligent manner causing death. Even though he served a shorter sentence after mitigation, my client was nevertheless emotionally scarred for life due to that momentary lapse of judgment.

Alas, all he wanted was to make extra to cover his study costs, but an accident of this nature just takes a second or two of inattentiveness to adversely change two lives for a long time to come. My point is that we lawyers can only do so much after the fact has happened. We pursue justice after the act is done, but deep in our hearts, we long for such judicial pursuit to be avoided altogether if more road users, in particular, food delivery riders, can take the necessary precautions on the road.

I have seen many lives changed drastically after a serious road accident and they are usually the sole breadwinners in the family. One unwarranted distraction on the road can mean a lifetime of physical pain and disability that plunges the family not only to some financial hardship, but also emotional and mental anguish that are often beyond what words can describe.

Well, they say time heals all, and I leave you on a positive note.

Recently, the mother of the young client I acted for came to our office and thanked me for representing her son. I asked her how is her boy and she smiled and said he is studying hard. She even said that his grades are picking up.

It is good to know that at times, the silver lining in our profession is that the human spirit is truly indomitable.

Written by:
Mr. Han Hean Juan
Asssociate Director of Hoh Law Corporation
15th April 2020

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