Malaysians & Their Cars!? by Ali Karim - HTML preview

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The Facts


Road safety has long been considered as one of the social responsibilities of the Malaysian Government, and to this end, multiple bodies on road safety have been formed within government departments, private agencies and voluntary organisations.


The Cabinet Committee on Road Safety, chaired by the Prime Minister, was formed by the Government and a National Road Safety Plan was formulated to give attention to road safety research programmes, behavioural modification of road users, road engineering and vehicle safety, medical treatment and safety administration.


The target of reducing road accidents and fatalities was to be achieved using the 3E concept of Education, Engineering and Enforcement.


En Mohamad Nizam Mustafa of the Highway Planning Unit within the Ministry of Works in his report ‘OVERVIEW OF CURRENT ROAD SAFETY SITUATION IN MALAYSIA’ stated that, whilst no single cause can be attributed to accidents, the cause of most road accidents is due to the drivers themselves.


Contrary to public opinion which would apportion blame for accidents onto the authorities, this primary cause is interrelated to other shortcomings such as road conditions, poor or insufficient signages, weather conditions and even the state of maintenance of a vehicle.





Traffic accidents and road fatalities in Malaysia have been increasing at an average rate of 9.7% per annum over the last 3 decades.


The increase in road accidents can be linked with the rapid growth in population, economic development, industrialisation and motorisation experienced by the country since the 1970’s.


The total length of roads has also increased from 11,161 km in 1974 to 71,814 km in 2005 to accommodate an increase in the number of vehicles in Malaysia. Ownership of vehicles has seen an increase from 9.6 persons per vehicle in 1974 to 1.7 persons per vehicle in 2005.



Insurance Claims


The PIAM Insurance News of July 2010 highlighted that number of motor accidents resulted a payout of RM3 Billion in motor claims. Bogus claims cost about RM500m a year, about 17% of the massive yearly claims, as estimated by ISM.


General insurance companies have been suffering from high motor claim losses with the claim ratio exceeding 100% in four of the last five years for the overall motor portfolio. These were largely due to various factors including increase in road accidents and vehicle theft.


Claims ratios for third party bodily injury claims alone, which have exceeded 100 per cent for many years, skyrocketed to 262 per cent in 2007 and 340 per cent in first half 2008.


PIAM say that express buses and goods vehicle are major contributors to the underwriting losses in the motor insurance class and have the highest claims ratios.


In 2007, the combined claims ratio for express buses was 335 per cent, followed by goods vehicles at 155 per cent.



Casualties by Age Group (2009)




Young Drivers


The rising motor claims made by young drivers is another major concern to the general insurers, with industry statistics showing that the claims ratio attributed to young drivers (25 years and below) is about 40 per cent higher compared to other insured age groups.


PDRM statistics revealed that the numbers of road accidents for the age group of 16 – 20 years old is greater than any other age group.


The worldwide phenomenon is not that far off when the California Department of Motor Vehicles releases its findings to be concurrent within PDRM.



Common Risk Factors 


PDRM’s findings conclude that the main factor of road accidents is the attitude of pantang dicabar of all age groups, contrary to unofficial experts, coffee- shop analysis’s and radio DJ’s whom concluded speed to be the main cause.


An attitude of “know it all”, “they are the best” and “accidents only happen to others” lulls young drivers into a false sense of security in their abilities, but in combination with any one or more of the following factors; has an even greater impact on the safety of other road users.


a. Poor hazard detection

b. Low risk perception

c. Risk Taking

d. Not wearing seat belts

e. Lack of skill

f. Alcohol and drugs 

g. Carrying passengers

h. Night driving 



a. Poor hazard detection


The ability to detect hazards in the driving environment depends upon perceptual and information-gathering skills and involves properly identifying stimuli as potential threats. It takes time for young novice drivers to acquire this ability.



b. Low risk perception


Risk perception involves subjectively assessing the degree of threat posed by a hazard and one's ability to deal with the threat. Young novice drivers tend to underestimate the crash risk in hazardous situations and overestimate their ability to avoid the threats they identify.



c. Risk Taking


Teenagers tend to take more risks while driving partly due to their overconfidence in their driving abilities. Young novice drivers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like speeding, tailgating, running red lights, violating traffic signs and signals, making illegal turns, passing dangerously, and failure to yield to pedestrians.



d. Not wearing seat belts 


Teenagers tend to wear safety belts less often than older drivers. Why?



e. Lack of skill


Novice teenage drivers have not yet completely mastered basic vehicle handling skills and safe-driving knowledge they need to drive safely.  



f. Alcohol and drugs


Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is a common cause of serious crashes, especially fatal ones, involving teenage drivers. Teenagers who drink and drive are at much greater risk of serious crashes than are older drivers with equal concentrations of alcohol in their blood.



g. Carrying passengers


For teenagers, the risk of being in a crash increases when they transport passengers-the fatality risk of drivers aged 16-17 years is 3.6 times higher when they are driving with passengers than when they are driving alone, and the relative risk of a fatal crash increases as the number of passengers increases. Passengers who are age peers may distract the teen drivers and encourage them to take more risks, especially for young males riding with young male drivers.



h. Night driving


The per mile crash rate for teenaged drivers is 3 times higher after 9:00 pm during the day. This is because the task of driving at night is more difficult; they have less experience driving at night than during the day; they are more sleep deprived, and/or because teenage recreational driving, which often involves alcohol, is more likely to occur at night. 



Malaysian driver’s mentality


This is perhaps the main reasons that surpass all other reasons for road rages and accidents. In fact, the most interesting areas of study in traffic accident investigations. While En Mohamad Nizam Mustafa of the Highway Planning Unit from MOW mildly apportions the cause to the drivers themselves; let me reinforce it bluntly. Malaysian drivers of the age group 16 - 35 are one of the most benighted with demagogue mentality about driving, their cars and the roads. In a nutshell, plain dumb!


Whatever that goes wrong, these group of high risk Malaysians will never admit their fault - it’s always others. Malaysian drivers seem to have their own set of Laws. Like the DNA, each of them has their own set of rules on how things should be on the road.


With over 30 year’s experience in driving, I must have a “gift” to watch and coin terms from how everyone drives or handles a car. In order to not suffer a heart-attack while explaining them, I have put my findings in a humorous perspective. That perhaps you the good reader may also prevent a stroke before you finish reading.



Language Limitation


With all the fuss about changing school syllabus, signage’s and road signs to “bahasa”, I don’t see the point as Malaysians after 52 years have yet to master neither. After a decade of “gunalah bahasa kebangsaan”, many people where Bahasa is their only language cant event read a simple road sign such as “IKUT KIRI JIKA TIDAK MEMOTONG”. And to those who don’t understand bahasa, can expect no better. At the age of 45, with all the academic qualifications, I have yet to subconsciously comprehend every word in Bahasa. Yes I admit I get confuse with KIRI and KANAN. At least with all the driving experience and common sense, I know that the sign means ‘Keep Left When Not Overtaking’.


Our politicians when talking without a script (except TDM) cannot stick to either one language. They and the rest of us are the same. We keep mixing up Bahasa and English. We can’t manage to subconsciously translate left, right, kiri and kanan on dime without fumbling.


Putting that aside, there are still issues with local drivers to understand and agree on road signs, rules and regulation in road traffic. As drivers, many hardly read all the signage’s by the road side, with an assumption that “seen it, done that” knowledge of driving.


Yet the same people whom complain relentlessly about fast drivers and the weaving in traffic are the cause of it, typical as they can’t understand the simple bahasa as “Ikut Kiri Jika Tidak Memotong”. Based on that, without too much analysis I can safely assume that 50% of highway users can’t read, “buta-hurof”, short sighted or the signs are in wrong language. Let alone if they can even confidently pin, which is kanan and kiri when the adrenaline pumps.


Contrary to local Radio station’s, coffee shop’s study, UPSR and PMR essay paper’s on road accidents that most accidents are due to speeding and weaving, PDRM statistics on the other hand revealed that accidents usually happens in trunk roads and when overtaking.



Overtaking or Basket Weaving?


The question is why do people need to overtake? Of course the reply is simple; the chicken crossed the road because it wanted to get to the other side. Same as to the drivers whom overtake. Drivers whom overtake (like me) or zigzags are called Basket Weavers (BW) by some highly experienced Radio DJ’s. Since I am one of the many BW, perhaps my opinion would be much anticipated.


Well I overtake because I simply want to move on with my life, to carry-on with my journey. I do not enjoy sitting too long in a cabin. It’s not a ‘Hari Kemerdekaan’ so there is no need for any ‘perarakkan’ on the public road, so I overtake. There are too many Tok Wans, ZM, MN and DMAS (the meaning of which will become apparent in the coming chapters) on the road and on the right lane, making our highways look like a parade.


What happen next is much interesting. The driver of the car I am trying to overtake (called Zen Master, ZM for short) suddenly wakes up from deep alpha level meditation and floors on the accelerator. Making my attempt to overtake him more difficult. It is believed that the ZM’s attempt is to subject me to retract my action and participate in deep meditation with him.  Unfortunately due to my lack of interest to meditate while driving, I press on. My attempt is further reprimanded by another accomplice, the driver coming from the opposite direction. Let’s say this third driver is called MN (the moron) whom is also awakened from deep meditation and decides to help ZM. He flash’s his high beam repeatedly, blinding me, to force me into;


A.    Abort overtakes and ditch on the right

B.    Squeeze between ZM and MN and ditch on the left

C.    Brake hard to join ZM in meditation


Both the ZM and MN had some sort of telepathic relation to orchestrate such an outstanding setup, so precisely that they even know that a BW will most likely choose neither of the above. After all if I go, why not take them along. These actions specifically serve to offer a BW an ‘out-of-body’ experience to meet god. In other countries it is called attempted murder. We can call this Alpha driving, just as bad as drink driving.


When I did something like this in Melbourne Australia, the two other cars actually slowed down and let me pass. They seemed to have transmitted to me a signal “be well” and were not keen to have the out-of-body-experience with me.


The second reason how I became a BW, was due to this ZM’s on the highways. Road speed says 80. All ZM’s will drive on the right lane like at 50kph. There will be an empty lane going in front of him for miles. He knows you are tailing behind but he will not let you pass, because according to his own set of rules, he is complying with ‘the rules’. When ZM's occupies the right lane, then one cannot overtake on the right ...because there is a railing! Therefore, not to associate myself to be an MN, or participate in Alpha driving, I pass him on the left.



Additional fuel to raise the car’s momentum, wear on tires, depreciation of

metabolism in my body and my time. And therefore, a BW is born!


It does not and never will occur to these ZM’s (and DJ's) that perhaps some of us maybe fortunate to own a better car. That it has all the safety features and superior handling. That perhaps it’s our own business to take the car up above national limits. Perhaps that the car I drive is a German made, for Autobahn? That there are countries, manufacturers and people whom are far better, smarter and responsible, that rear view mirrors and side mirrors are installed on purpose. Apart from making this guide book a compulsory syllabus in school, new signs as the above should be retrofitted.



Malaysians and Lights


Malaysians love lights. We love all sorts, HID, xenon, blue, white, green, neon, LED, torch lights, pen lights, LED cigarette lighters and so on. If a stadium flood light can be installed on a car, WE WILL install them on our ‘motokar’.


By the way, during the last call for Earth Hour, I drove around Subang Jaya. Only to note some 30% of the residents here switched off the lights for an hour. For the rest 70% life was as grand as usual. Amazing to see that in 2009 there are still Malaysians whom are completely absolved from the universe and their environment.


Following are some interesting use of lights.



Hazard Lights


It is a form of communication devised by us Malaysian’s. We utilized the Hazard light to send secret codes.


The Hazard light on vehicles was once upon a time believed to mean “car broke down, stationary on emergency lane, drive away”, or sorts stated in the useless Owner’s Handbook (written in both languages). Drivers believe that it is total waste of resources and material thrown in with the car. That it caused more depreciation of trees to contribute for paper printing.


Malaysians know it instinctively the purpose of hazard lights. For those who still haven’t got it, please be fully informed that the hazard light here is only to be used when;


a. There is a need to park a car in front of a bank (Type A3)

b. Transporting money -applicable to Security companies & convoys (Type A2)

c. During a heavy downpour (Type A1)



a) Type A3


By switching ON the hazard light, the driver reserves the right to park exactly in front of a bank.


This method well utilized by motorists from Taipan USJ, Klang, Taman Sri Gombak, Jalan Pasar, and Jalan Ampang and in some cases applies to Singapore Embassy. Apart from parking exactly in front of the bank, the hazard lights can also be used when parking exactly in front of School main entrance.


While at Taipan USJ, USJ 1, Schools and restaurants in Subang Jaya, please take a moment to observe and learn how citizens here park their cars. Some of the latest and exotic techniques are invented here. Parents picking up their kids from school and those, whom have lunch at the restaurants, are privileged to park right at the center of the road. Any other reason, you will find a ticket on the w/screen.


However, to be fair there are many Malaysians also have serious skin disorder. They suffer from a kind of skin cancer called ‘Filtrus-stinkuslowdown Bitchistis’ or FB for short, that when exposed to the sun, their skin burns. I feel sorry for this folks. Please put a label on your forehead “FB” and you will be given special privilege to block the main entrance to the school. We are in midst of applying to the Ministry of Education to grant you special pass to drive up right into your child’s classroom, to protect your skin.  



b. Type A2


Commonly complied in official convoys. Many Security companies travel in the early hours along Federal Highway with their hazard lights ON. They tend to drive around 80kph on the right lane. The switching ON of the hazard light by these individuals indicates that they have a cargo of substantial cash and therefore they have the right of way. “Please move to the center lane or stop”. It is believed that this is also to ward off any suspecting robbers, that the flashing hazard light has a death ray. Brain surgeons have yet to discover how these ingenious methods came about by local Security companies and convoys. Please check this article from time to time for further updates.



c. Type A1


This will be the most significant reason and on the top of the charts. The hazard light can and should be used only by deserving drivers during a heavy rain. I call these deserving drivers as DMAS (It think you know the abbreviation). It simply means “Hey, its heavy rain. Gosh…  I can’t see $h!t…, beware of me!”.


It is unknown why so many Malaysians today failed to inherit this gift, an ESP to perceive messages from these DMAS. The hazard light here in Malaysia serves as a warning to others that a DMAS is on the road. You should stop your vehicle immediately and let the DMAS pass.


To recognize a DMAS, look out for the following signs. A DMAS usually,


  • drives below 50kph,
  • on an 110kph highway,
  • on the far right lane (close to the railing),
  • during a heavy downpour
  • with hazard lights!


Once you have spotted one, again, please pull over and stop. Reserve the right lane for DMS. This privilege is no exception if your car/s has tires that are designed to handle aquaplaning*, fitted with special safety devices e.g. ASC, DSC, ACT, CCT or AC/DC to maintain traction, or that it might have a special set of Wiper blades to skim off water, or equipped with Night Vision, that you might have special treatments on the windshield or you could be wearing special glasses, bla bla bla... all in which you think contributes to better visibility and superior road handling. Investments by such drivers are automatically rendered null and void when a DMAS switch’s ON the hazard light. The DMAS reserve the right of way - period.


*Btw., aquaplaning means nothing, it is some fancy word used to decorate the Owner’s Handbook. Please ignore and return the book when you sell the car so that the car may fetch better price.



Signal Light


This device in some countries are used to indicate the driver is about to switch directions. When a left signal flashes, usually yellow/amber in color flashes on the left of the car, it means the driver is about to maneuver the vehicle he/she is in towards left and vice versa.


Again this applies only in other countries. In Malaysia, local law does not specify that the turn signal should be yellow. It can be blue or white. As a matter of fact, a Malaysian vehicle owner (MDL Compliant) is free to decide which color he/she chooses to have so that it matches their cloths.


However, a Malaysian driver whether a BW, ZM, MN or DMAS are urged to use signal switch AFTER making the required turn. Let me repeat that, use the signals AFTER you make the turn. This is to protect you against any insults, blame, legal suites in the event of an accident/incidents, protest and/or harassments from other motorist. The use of signal AFTER the event serves as compliance.


As general information, in other countries the choice of amber (yellow, orange or reddish yellow) are claimed to increase alertness of human being. Red and amber also has greater range. It is not certain if this was the reason for Malaysia to convert to yellow street lights from white in the late 70’s. Perhaps blue would have looked nice.


Continental car manufacturers install Instrument meters and interior consoles that are lighted in amber. They must have made a gross error in their years of research that they assumed that amber will keep the driver on alert. Because studies in Malaysia revealed that the use of blue, green, white, purple, pink etc., tend to relax the driver. It is perfect to induce drivers into rapid meditation while driving.



Proper Signaling Techniques


We all know that Jalan Tun Razak is the Mecca for traffic jams. City folks know which roads are jammed without the help of our Radio DJ's and/or Road Rangers. Due to our determination and perseverance though, we are confident to drive through it. Equipped with some skills, everyone can handle the traffic jam stress.


However as an additional aid to new comers and maybe foreigners, following are some key techniques how you can enter or exit a road lane. 



Lane Change (Male Drivers) – Turning left


1. Drive steadily

2. Look straight

3. Rest your left hand fingers on signal lever (turning left)

4. Caution: Do not activate signal yet (this will give away your position)

5. Place your right hand at 10 O’clock of the steering wheel

6. Roll your eye balls on the wing mirror (right side) slowly!

7. Note the gap between each car

8. Once you note a gap is larger than previous assessment, immediately rotate the steering wheel clock wise half circle.

9. Then immediately turn the steering one full circle counter clock wise to the left

10. Activate left signal

11. You are now safe to enter the left lane

12. Raise your right hand (if applicable)

13. Never check the rear view mirror, proceed as normal


Lane Change (Male Driver) – Turning right


1.      Follow the above steps in reverse order.






Lane Change (Female Driver)


We regret to inform that there are no new techniques available for women drivers at this point of time. The version “Hara-kiri” or “Kamikaze” driving techniques you currently deploy has not been upgraded yet. You may therefore proceed with these versions until further notice.


Male drivers are warned not to imitate these techniques as report indicates that men, whom have done so, have been traumatized by the experience. These victims (men drivers) have resorted to hobbies like collecting stamps, Bonsai planting, playing RC models or spending time at the gym as a result of their attempts.



Fog Lights


Most continental cars are installed with rear fog lights. For the Europeans o