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Leading Causes of Fatal Road Accidents in Malaysia & How to Mitigate Them

Surprise, surprise. Drunk driving isn’t one of the leading fatalities for road accidents as we were led to believe. Time after time again, the media has been relentlessly trying to stir moral panic by citing drunk driving as the leading cause of fatal road accidents. But are they really true? 

Drunk driving isn't the leading cause of road accidents as we were led to believe.

In reality, a Polis Diraja Rakyat Malaysia (PDRM) statistical report ranging from July 2011 and 2021 shows that only 69 cases of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs have been recorded as fatal. In fact, driving under influence does not even come close to the top 5 causes of road fatalities in Malaysia. Here are the main causes of fatal road accidents and what we can do to avoid them.

1. Careless Mistakes

Careless mistakes is actually the number one cause of road accidents One of the leading causes of road fatalities is…our own careless mistakes? PDRM’s data reveals that at least 19,570 fatal road accidents occur due to drivers crashing their own cars. There are all sorts of mistakes, mainly a poor sense of judgment by drivers or just plain recklessness. How many times have you encountered one or more hooligans driving on the streets like it’s their grandfather’s road? 

Texting and driving is also another reckless behavior on the road. Hop on to any dashcam groups on Facebook and you’ll find yourself an abundant amount of horrific, and sometimes comedic examples of reckless drivers caught red-handed. Drivers like these will make you question – How in the world did they get their driving license? The lack of empathy and proper understanding of our traffic laws leads to ignorance. Arrogance and ego can be a deadly cocktail of wanton disaster. 

According to traffic laws Section 41 of the Road Transport Act 1987 – Any person who, by the driving of a motor vehicle on a road recklessly or at a speed or in a manner which having regard to all the circumstances (including the nature, condition, and size of the road, and the amount of traffic which is or might be expected to be on the road) is dangerous to the public, causes the death of any person shall be guilty of an offense…”. 

So, before you respond to that text on the phone, remember that you’re driving a 1000 kg weapon on four wheels; you can kill someone with that. 

2. Entering/Exiting Slip Roads Recklessly

Giving way at slip roads can prevent road accidents When we were children our parents used to tell us – Look left and right before crossing the road. What happened to that advice? Another common cause of fatal road accidents in Malaysia is entering or exiting slip roads recklessly, be it not crossing when the roads are properly or at the hands of other reckless drivers. As of July 2021, PDRM’s data reports that 6590 deaths occur from accidents on the slip road. 

The sight of oncoming traffic speeding up the moment you gave a signal has been far too common. When drivers do not give way to oncoming traffic or fail to merge properly, you can cause a traffic pile-up. Unfortunately, unless more Malaysians learn how to give way, we can only be wary of traffic when entering and exiting slip roads. Drive slow, remember to always give a signal before merging, and check for oncoming traffic. 

3. Not Staying In Your Lane Properly 

Be alert and try to stay in your lane to prevent road accidentsWith 6587 deaths in the span of ten years, straying away from your lane has become the third leading cause of fatal road accidents on Malaysian Roads. This also slightly ties back to drivers making careless mistakes by getting distracted or texting while driving. Oftentimes, some road drivers do not realize that they are out of their lane due to poor visibility and road conditions in rural areas. 

Nowadays, we have some cars that come with Lane Assist Systems, especially on modern Mazdas and Toyotas. Drivers can mitigate this by ensuring they are alert and focused on the road, regularly checking their mirrors, and using their signals when changing lanes. Moreover, try to shadow the car ahead to see if it’s staying in the lane. 

Overtaking/Undertaking Other Cars on the Highway

Overtaking/undertaking without giving enough space to the car in front can lead to a road accidentOvertaking or undercutting is another common cause of fatal road accidents in Malaysia. With 6560 drivers having tried and failed horribly, it’s the fourth leading cause of road fatalities in the country. This happens when drivers attempt to overtake another vehicle, be in the slow or fast lane, without enough space, or when cut in front of another vehicle without warning. On top of that, some drivers even try to tailgate slow cars in the fast lane. While two wrongs don’t make a right here, It’s best to remember the four-second rule of keeping your distance while driving. 

If you have to overtake or undertake someone, always give yourself and the car in front of you some space before doing so. Also, always use your signals when changing lanes, and avoid cutting in front of other vehicles. Use the side, and rearview mirrors to make sure your surroundings are clear before cutting through. Watch out for your blind spots too. 

4. Unaware of Their Surroundings on the Road

You'd be surprised to know how many road accidents are caused by inattentive drivers on the road. Lack of situational awareness has caused 6336 fatalities, putting it in fifth place. Just like drivers making careless mistakes, there is no shortage of drivers or motorcyclists caught on dashcam groups. Much to the entertainment (and sometimes frustration of many), more drivers need to be aware of their surroundings the moment they drive. We can’t expect Jesus to take the wheel for us. 

However, some fatalities from poor situational awareness can’t be fully blamed on the driver. At times, road visibility may be poor due to weather conditions or driving in a new area for the first time. I’ll admit I too make some mistakes and get lost driving in new places, but paying attention to my surroundings has gotten me out unscathed. In the case of driving somewhere unfamiliar or with poor visibility, always drive slowly, so you can brake easier in case anything happens, and pay attention to your surroundings attentively.

Honorable Mention: Microsleep 

Microsleep is a rising cause in road accidents lately. While this isn’t a leading case of road fatalities, the sudden rise of road accidents caused by microsleep should be honorably mentioned. Microsleep is similar to how we fall straight into sleep but it differentiates by people dozing off for a short period, mostly lasting for a few seconds when they are exhausted or sleep-deprived. Someone falling into microsleep on the road for a mere few seconds can be their ultimate demise. 

Now that Malaysia has transitioned to an endemic state recovering from the fight with Covid-19, more and more office workers have been recalled back to the office, only to face the dreadful traffic jam on their daily commute to and from the office. For some workers or long-distance travelers after a long, exhausting day, they are much higher at risk of falling into microsleep. That few seconds of dozing off may be fatally dangerous. 

To mitigate microsleep, we urge you to get at least eight hours of sleep at home the night before. In addition, get some coffee or tea as a kicker to stay away before and during the journey. If you’re feeling tired, try not to push it further and stop by the nearest petrol station or somewhere safe to get some shut-eye or a 30-minute power nap. Conversely, you can also blast some loud music and wind down the windows to get some fresh air. 

A wise person who’s frequents sanctioned track racing once told me – A car isn’t just a vehicle, it’s also a deadly weapon in the wrong hands. Just like one would do with a gun, one should be sound of mind and remain hyper-alert when using it. 

This article was originally published on Wapcar’s news page

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