Proton_Iriz_Drive_ 001

The proposed 110 km/h hard cap via the use of speed limiting devices that surfaced yesterday sure raised a lot of commotion among Malaysian motorists. Now this is an idea that would limit all cars – not just commercial vehicles, but passenger cars and motorcycles too – to 110 km/h.

Are we not limited to such a speed anyway? Yes and no. Right now we are not allowed to go over 110 km/h, but with such a system in place, we won’t be able to. Like explicitly can’t, not even if one chooses to do so.

The premise behind the proposal is this: “limiting the speed of all vehicles is a suitable method to reduce road accidents in the country. If this can be implemented, then we will become the first country in the world to limit vehicle speed based on speed limits in accordance with national law,” said the Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Datuk Dr Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah.

Now, is this the ideal way to curb the growing number of road accidents and fatalities on Malaysian roads? We at paultan.org think there are various other ways to achieve the same goal.

Improving the road network

The road network in Malaysia is vast as it is, but its conditions can be significantly improved.

Potholes, for a start, are a major cause of accidents. Motorists, especially motorcyclists, often have to swerve about or brake hastily to avoid hitting road irregularities or damaged patches. Erratic manoeuvres such as these, against the natural flow of traffic, may lead to collisions – more so if done at speed.

On top of these, we have poorly maintained or designed roads in places, with plenty of dangerous mid-corner undulations and/or exposed, slippery expansion joints that could cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles. There’s no doubt that better road conditions will help to avoid or at least minimise such situations.

Installing traffic lights at dangerous intersections

bkk-ratchaprasong-dt

Another leading source of road accidents are dangerous intersections. You know the sort – ones that require you to take risks to drive/ride out of. Some people tend to take more extreme risks than others, while the more patient ones are likely to be honked at and be pressured to go when they’re not entirely ready to.

Why have such complications? A set of traffic lights will introduce a more organised and significantly safer traffic flow. And road users, do look first before you go on green. You never know when others may choose to ignore the lights.

Having a better enforcement of speed cameras at accident-prone locations

Assuming that speed is the main cause of accidents (arguable, but an understandable concept nonetheless), having a better enforcement of speed cameras at accident-prone locations may help in the cause too. Yes folks, speed cameras.

They may not be among our favourite things in the world, but if they act as a positive deterrent against speeding through known dangerous stretches, then we’re all for them.

Promoting the importance of active safety features in vehicles

Active safety features are not new, but yet most Malaysian motorists are oblivious to them. These are systems that actively act to avoid collisions in the first place, instead of just minimising the damage in the case of an accident (such is the way airbags are designed for).

What should be seen as the most basic of such systems is electronic stability control (ESC, ESP, VSC, etc.), which is now compulsory for all passenger cars in Europe. Malaysians should be aware of more advanced safety features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking too. EuroNCAP has recently made it a mandatory feature for a car to get a full five-star safety rating.

Meanwhile in Malaysia, ASEAN NCAP doesn’t even account for the inclusion of side airbags, while certain new models on sale lack basic safety features such as a full suite of airbags (including side and curtain airbags, not just dual front airbags) or even ABS. The earlier this changes, the better it is for all motorists.

Introducing an improved driving test syllabus

This one is tough, but as we see it, necessary. Road safety isn’t just about following the rules, which is what the current driving syllabus focuses on. Safe driving ethics is just as important on the road, and perhaps adopting a cause-and-effect way of explaining would help.

As an example, an unspoken but vital rule is to always respect other motorists. More than just keeping a safe distance between you and the car in front, you also have to anticipate the traffic flow while being more aware of your surroundings. Mirrors are there for a reason, and while we’re at it, also know to not stay in a vehicle’s blindspot, lest he/she misses you.

Playing loud music or God forbid, using head- or earphones while driving is a strict no-no too. You need to be fully aware of what’s happening around you, and being able to hear is very important.

Enforcing rules on the mandatory use of rear seat belts and child seats

We here at paultan.org have written about the importance of the use of rear seat belts and proper child seats many times over. It’s the least you can do, so buckle up. The powers that be should fine those that don’t, before it’s too late. As simple as that.

Implementing a mandatory scheduled vehicle inspection system

puspakom-test

This one will be an unpopular one, that’s for sure. But think about it. While the proposed Vehicle End of Life policy may be too extreme, a mandatory scheduled vehicle inspection system can do more good than harm.

The UK has the annual MOT test, while Japan has its own compulsory Shaken programme every two years that serves as a simple check for vehicle safety and roadworthiness. A similar system could be good for us as well, at the very least to ensure that all cars on the road comply with the minimum safety standards that are deemed necessary.

The scheduled inspection could include simple checks of a vehicle’s remaining tyre tread, plus the condition of its wipers and exterior lights – all very important in our climate. This way, old vehicles would still be allowed on the roads, but only if they have been maintained well.