Jakarta Journo: Lessons Learned From a Deadly Crash
What happened a week ago this morning was a tragedy. After a night of clubbing, a heavily intoxicated woman smashed into 12 people with a Daihatsu Xenia, killing 9 of them, including a 2-year-old baby.
When the collision occurred, the first question that popped into my mind was: how many years will she spend behind bars?
Then we quickly learned that the charges being prepared against Afriani Susanti would carry a prison sentence of merely up to 12 years.
But those charges, some of which apply to her three companions in the car also, do not derive from the taking of those nine innocent lives. The culprit’s heaviest charge comes from the allegation she and her friends had been taking methamphetamine, ecstasy and alcohol.
This raises an obvious question. Does this country need a law on vehicular homicide, the act of murder resulting from the negligent use of a vehicle?
Based on Indonesia’s criminal code, the heaviest punishment one can get for killing people in a car accident, irrespective of the number of casualties, is six years in prison.
From a layman’s perspective, it doesn’t make sense. Six years for killing nine people?
The Indonesian legal system should start considering deadly collisions like this as second-degree murder. It may not be premeditated, but it is still murder.
A charge of vehicular manslaughter was applied once, in 1994, after a sleepy Metromini driver drove his bus into a river in Sunter, killing 32 passengers.
The driver, who attempted to run away, was captured and received 15 years in prison. Apparently, the Supreme Court has the power to apply such a penalty.
The Metromini case should be used as a precedent for the Xenia disaster, which should serve as a warning to reckless drivers.
Looked at in the larger context, we all know that this country, Jakarta especially, is no stranger to crazy motorists. Gigantic public buses, for example, are driven like sports cars that own the city. Many people treat our crowded city as if it was a Formula 1 circuit.
If these drivers know that their recklessness could result in murder charges, then there is a chance it could reduce the craziness.
This leads to another point. Indonesian law enforcers are not big on promoting a “Don’t drink and drive” campaign. Remember those stories last year about the number of cases where drunken motorists plunged into the Hotel Indonesia Circle fountain?
If Afriani is punished for vehicular homicide, hopefully that might cause people to think twice before driving under the influence.
Here’s another interesting point. In her confession, Afriani said that she had been at Stadium, the notorious multi-story disco in the Hayam Wuruk area. Afterwards, there were reports that city authorities would conduct drug raids on clubs and bars.
But will law enforcers have the guts to actually shut down those nightclubs in Jakarta that are well-known havens for drugs? Or will they simply target the consumers, while ignoring suppliers and dealers?
While punishing vehicular homicide is a top priority, cleaning the streets of drugs should also be a goal to keep in mind.
We all know that Afriani has taken her share of public anger, as evidenced by the merciless tide of rage distributed against her on the Internet and through social media.
But that’s not enough. What we need is justice. Drunk or not, reckless drivers who take the lives of others should be treated as murderers and we should take seriously the mission to rid the city of substances that turn people into reckless drivers.
Armando Siahaan is a reporter at the Jakarta Globe. Follow him on
Twitter @jakartajourno or e-mail him at