Monday, 1 July 2019

Road rage is no joke

Rohiman Haroon wrote this piece  for Malaysia's The New Strait Times.

It's not too difficult to apply the story to Australia. When reading its references to "Malaysia", think "Australia".

At a corporate dinner some years ago, stand-up comedian Harith Iskander made a humorous observation that Malaysian drivers had the habit of displaying a menacing look to their fellow drivers when the latter did something wrong in the way they drove

Yes, that menacing, disgusting look by the angry driver right after the car driver in front made a mistake, like hogging the road or failing to signal when turning into a junction.

The driver would usually drive past by you and make an angry face, wearing that somewhat Angry Bird look with pointed eyebrows and shaking his head in disbelief at you as if he wanted to know who the imbecile was.

Generally, Malaysian drivers do not like being honked at, tailgated and blinded by high beams. If you are a patient and civil driver, you’d give way to the oncoming car from behind. But if you are one of those who do not like being pushed over on the road, your average Malaysian drivers’ response would be to honk back, tailgate the driver and blind the car in front with high beams.

If you drive on the road today, you’d notice Malaysian motorists tend to make endless mistakes. Not signaling when turning into a junction, weaving in and out of traffic, running traffic lights and signs, using mobile phones while driving and even hogging the road below the allowed speed limit of 110kph on highways are just a few of the mistakes that you can observe on a daily basis.

But the worst is when incidents of road rage culminate in road bullying and assaults that result in injuries and deaths of either drivers.

We have seen a lot of these horrifying incidents captured on videos that went viral over the past years. I do not wish to dwell on those horrendous incidents, which have been said and written about in volumes on social media platforms, in newspapers and social forums.

But I want to stress the “small” mistakes we commit that could cause our fellow drivers to lose their cool

Admittedly, I have made plenty of mistakes while driving.

In an incident not too long ago, as I was sending my children to school in the morning and turning into a junction, I saw a four-wheel drive coming from behind fast, zigzagging past the traffic, and incessantly giving other vehicles high headlight beams.

As the vehicle drove past, I was shocked to find that a woman was in the driver’s seat. She rolled down the window, drove past and shouted at the top of her lungs: “Pakcik, lesen kopi ke? Apasal tak bagi signal?

I was angry at first, wanting to violently respond, but I knew I made a mistake by not signaling. I rolled the window and showed my hand with open palm, gesturing an apology.

Nowadays, Malaysian women drive fast and furious, don’t they? Not just men any more. Aggressive driving, especially weaving through traffic, is the norm on our roads every day.

In another incident, I was given the middle finger not just by the driver, but by his supposedly young passenger son as well. “Bapa borek, anak rintik” (like father, like son); that’s what a Malay proverb says.

It was my mistake for changing lanes quite abruptly into the right side of the road, although I gave the indicating light.

Nonetheless, this car came from behind so fast that it hit on the brake so suddenly it screeched to a halt. It almost hit my car when the driver gave me the stern, menacing look as he overtook my car.
I was about to show my hands to gesticulate an apology, but the driver and his young passenger gave me the finger. Naturally, I wanted to give chase and gestured the driver with my own middle finger, but I kept my cool. It would have only made things uglier if I had done it.

I just couldn’t understand how a young boy, probably in his teens, could do such a thing. It ruined my day.

According to a Malaysian Institute of Road Safety research conducted two years ago, out of the total 13.3 million registered drivers in Malaysia, 2.4 million lose their temper on the road. It means two out of 10 people drive while fuming.

This is the reason why I made a point to want to be patient, be civil and remember to recite prayers when I start my car every time. The ugly side of me, however, reminds me to anticipate the worst.

I’d anticipate that other drivers on the road today are not in their right mind as they carry with them so much baggage in their lives. They could have had arguments with their wives that morning, anticipated a really bad day with piles of work and horrible bosses, afraid of arriving late to work or just missed breakfast.

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