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If you’ve been following the news, I don’t think I have to go into detail about what happened over the weekend. A quick recap, if you’re not already aware of it – six Perodua Myvis belonging to a club were allegedly racing on the DUKE highway, and one of them hit a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. The impact caused the SUV to roll over, and the occupants – a couple and their infant – were killed.

I won’t go into the whole “we should not be driving dangerously or racing on highways” bit. Hopefully most of our readers don’t fall into this category, but instead are sensible motorists who are trying to get from point A to point B safely. That’s the thing with driving on highways. At those speeds, any mishap could prove to be fatal because of the kind of speeds you’re travelling and decelerating from.

Sometimes I don’t understand why many Malaysians are generally so lackadaisical when it comes to motoring safety, when they do all they can to establish gated and guarded communities and grille up every opening there is in their homes. The bogeyman has a driving license, you know.

Here are some steps that we can take to make sure that we have a higher chance of walking away from an accident in the event that we’re unfortunate enough to be involved in one due to someone else’s poor driving or from the actions of an irresponsible road user.

Buckle up – everyone needs to wear their seat belts!

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We can’t stress enough how important seat belts are in a crash. Seat belts keep you safely strapped to your seat, and you won’t be thrown out of your vehicle in a crash.

Did you know that according to the Road Safety Department, there are 20 accident-related deaths recorded each day in Malaysia due to people not using their seat belts? Those 20 lives lost could possibly have been prevented if they had buckled up.

Please watch the video below to see what happens to someone in a rollover crash when that person isn’t wearing a seat belt. And take note there’s only one person in the car – the driver. Well, he started off in the driver’s seat at least, but ends up with his head sticking out of the broken rear passenger window.

You may think that it’s okay, that you drive safely and so, you don’t need to put on a seat belt. But every single person who has gotten into an accident never intended to be involved in one.

Seatbelts are a must for rear passengers too. A study revealed that in an accident involving a vehicle travelling at 50 km/h, the weight of unbuckled rear passengers jumps by 30-60 times their original weight.

Basically, an unrestrained rear passenger becomes the equivalent of a 3.5-tonne projectile hitting the back of the front passenger seat, and the front passenger seat isn’t designed to absorb three and a half tonnes of force. It’s a recipe for a tragic disaster.

Sadly, MIROS statistics show that the compliance rate for the rear seat belt rule was 47% when introduced in February 2009 (enforcement began on January 1, 2009), but this plummeted to 13% by end-2009, 9.7% by 2010 and 9.2% by 2011. It appears that people were only buckling up due to the fear of being fined.

Make sure our children are safely secured in child seats.

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Children should be secured in child seats when travelling in vehicles, and not in the arms of someone. The nation was already shocked by a report in early February this year where a 20-month old toddler was flung out of a car and killed. It is understood that his mother, herself five months pregnant, was holding him on her lap when the incident happened. From what we’ve read in the papers in this most recent incident, the child was flung out of the Pajero Sport too.

Many Malaysian parents hold their children on their laps in cars, which is very dangerous. Let’s not kid ourselves, an adult passenger will not have the required strength to prevent an infant or a child from being thrown forward during a collision, at any speed applied.

Yes, no matter how strong you think you are, your arms are not as good as proper belts. According to AAM, at a crash speed of just 50 km/h an unsecured infant weighing seven kilograms will be thrown forward at a force equivalent to an adult falling from a five-(5) storey building!

Simply putting them in the car’s normal seat – which is meant for adults – won’t work either. A vehicle’s seatbelt is meant to safely hold an adult body in place – it will not work for the small body of an infant, toddler or a small child. A lot of parents actually move their children out of child seats way too early.

Making the use of child car seats mandatory is a good move, but let’s start with buying and using them first. When you buy your child seat, make sure you learn how to install it properly, as an improperly installed child seat won’t do its job when it is needed.

Eliminate projectiles – our luggage may end up killing us!

Some of us like to decorate our cars with all kinds of little decorations such as toy cars and action figures and other what-nots. Some leave a whole bunch of toys in the car for kids to play with – these toys (like toy cars) may have sharp edges. We should refrain from doing this – keep the toys in a bag and only take them out when needed.

Hatchback, SUV and wagon users should take note of this particular topic, because in these body types the boot is essentially in the same space as the passenger area, so you have to make sure that all luggage must be secured at all times. With the advent of cool features like Honda’s Magic Seats – where seats can be folded down and up with multiple flexible configurations – it’s common for us to carry all kinds of things in the area where passengers are usually seated.

In a crash, all of these items can become projectiles that can cause grievous injuries, even kill. Just watch the video above. It’s in German, but the footage should be enough to do the talking.

You need to make sure you get something like a luggage net to separate yourself from your cargo, or secure everything down with luggage straps. Also, be wary of convenience items that you may have added, such as extra mirrors to watch the kids or even iPad holders – some of the cheaper items don’t have the proper engineering in them to be safe in a crash.

Make sure your tyres are in good condition.

Your tyres are the only point of contact between you and the road. Always remember, you are only able to control your car as long as these four points of contact are able to grip the road.

As such, it’s essential that you always make sure your tyres are in usable condition. Your tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm. If you have one of the old silver 20 sen coins lying around, you can slot it into the grooves of the tyre to check tread depth – if you can fully read the word “sen” on it, it’s time to change your tyres.

If your tyre has been punctured before, don’t repair tyres with tread punctures larger than 6.35 mm, or any sidewall puncture (which is usually unrepairable anyway). Also, never repair tyres which are worn below the mentioned 1.6 mm tread depth. It might be painful to the wallet, but you need to replace them.

You also need to make sure that your spare tyre is always ready to do its job, so check its pressure periodically.

Buy a car with ABS and ESC

Safety features such as Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) can help one regain control of one’s vehicle after it has been hit at high speed.

This personally happened to me – I was driving my old W211 E270 CDI on the Elite highway when the Merc’s rear side was hit by an old 3-Series spinning out of control. The impact sent my car veering almost sideways out of control towards the barrier.

I didn’t hit the barrier, because my car was equipped with stability control. In seconds, stability control did its magic, applied brake force to the necessary individual wheels to stabilise the car. I regained control of the vehicle without much effort, and could have proceeded with my journey if I had to. A potential disaster had been averted, and I got away with just a broken bumper and a tail lamp.

There are so many potential situations where stability control can potentially save your life. Another driver might be merging into your lane without bothering to check his wing mirrors to see if he’d be ploughing straight into you – and at highway speeds, an evasive manoeuvre could see you lose control as the car starts to fishtail.

Use CarBase.my‘s search engine to find cars for sale in Malaysia equipped with both ABS and ESC.

Drive defensively and develop situational awareness

We all need to pay extra attention on the road. You’ll find that some people just randomly switch lanes – these are people who basically do not bother to check their rear-view mirrors before performing such a manoeuvre.

We have to make sure we don’t become the idiot who almost sideswipes someone off the road, and we have to be alert enough to make sure we don’t end up being the person being sideswiped off too. We always need to know what’s happening around us – watch the behaviour pattern of other cars, always be aware of traffic conditions ahead, and make it a habit to look into your rear-view mirror more than occasionally.

Make sure that there are no decorative items like stickers and stuffed toys blocking your mirrors. If you have something large hanging from your rear view mirror that obstructs your windscreen, get rid of it.

Like I said before, the bogeyman is out there and he has a driver’s license. If all else fails, hopefully your seat belts, airbags, and active safety systems will save you. Happy – and safe – motoring.