Unsafe road behaviour still primary cause of road crashes

The surge in traffic volume on roads and expressways comes with an increased risk of road crashes and fatalities.

05 Apr 2024 10:40am
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Bernama FILE PIX
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Bernama FILE PIX

KUALA LUMPUR - In just a few days, the balik kampung exodus will begin as Muslims head back to their hometowns and villages to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri with their families.

However, the surge in traffic volume on roads and expressways comes with an increased risk of road crashes and fatalities, as is the case every year.

There are many factors contributing to this unfortunate trend but a major contributor is unsafe road behaviour such as driving dangerously and exceeding the speed limit, disregarding road signs and signals, and driving while tired or sleepy.

Malaysia’s road crash statistics, in general, are among the highest in the Southeast Asian region, with the numbers creeping up during festive periods.

According to police data, a total of 12,407 road crash cases were recorded during the road safety operation or Op Selamat conducted in conjunction with Aidilfitri last year. This was an increase of 0.1 percent or 11 cases compared to 12,396 road crashes recorded in the previous year’s Op Selamat.


Head of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Putra Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion Research Group - a unit in the Department of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine - Prof Dr Kulanthayan KC Mani told Bernama unsafe road behaviour is still the primary cause of road crashes that lead to fatalities.

He said road safety science clearly shows that higher driving speeds lead to higher collision speeds, resulting in severer injury and even fatality.

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For example, pedestrians and cyclists hit by a vehicle travelling at 30 km/h have a high chance of surviving the crash albeit with injuries. The vehicle’s occupants, meanwhile, are protected by the vehicle’s body. But if the vehicle is travelling at 70 km/h before the crash occurred, the victims concerned are more likely to suffer serious injuries or get killed.

"If a vehicle travelling at over 70 km/h hits someone, the impact is equivalent to falling from the sixth floor (of a building), while a car hitting someone at a speed of 90 km/h is equal to falling from the 10th floor,” he said.

Kulanthayan said a speed increase of just one km/h will increase the probability of injury by three percent and the risk of fatality by four to five percent.

"Hence, reducing speed is the most promising intervention to prevent injuries and fatalities, and drivers should always adhere to the speed limit to avoid a road crash," he stressed.

He also advised drivers to maintain a safe distance between their vehicles and the one in front so that, in the event they need to brake suddenly, they have ample time and space to avoid a crash.

"Here, two main things need attention: response time and brake time. Response time refers to the time the driver takes to press the brake pedal before a collision occurs, while brake time is the time taken by the vehicle to come to a complete stop once the brakes are applied.

"A vehicle travelling at a speed of 50 km/h needs to move about 26 metres to come to a complete stop, while a car travelling at 70 km/h needs to move 37 metres before stopping, and the distance increases as the car speed increases,” he said.


Getting adequate rest is also crucial for those undertaking long-distance drives. Kulanthayan said they should get six to eight hours of sleep daily over three to four days before driving outstation.

"Simply resting a day before driving is not enough as sleep debt, which accumulates from the lack of sleep over the last two to three days, cannot be cleared off with just one day of sleep. The quality of sleep is also important,” he said.

He added a clear-cut sign of drowsiness is when a driver cannot maintain their vehicle in their lane or when they eat into another vehicle’s lane. Other signs include missing or forgetting an exit.

Urging drivers to use one of the many sleep detection mobile apps available to alert them when they feel sleepy, he said they must find the nearest safe place where they can park their vehicles and take a nap of around 20 minutes before continuing with their journey.

Kulanthayan, who is also a permanent member of the Selangor State Road Safety Council, added the use of seat belts by all car passengers can reduce the probability of death due to a road crash by at least 40 to 50 percent.

"Bus operators must also encourage their passengers to use seat belts,” he said, adding another often overlooked safety feature is the installation of child restraint seats in vehicles.

"These seats can reduce the probability of death by 70 percent for infants, 54 percent for children aged one to four, and 59 percent for children aged four to seven,” said the road safety expert.


Kulanthayan, meanwhile, said a refreshing and collaborative approach is needed to revolutionise road safety and prevent crashes. This is because roads are used by almost everyone on a daily basis.

Urging the police and Road Transport Department to step up efforts to detect road violations, he said this can be done by using drones and increasing speed trap cameras and red light cameras.

"The concept is simple - more surveillance can help control the behaviour of road users and make it easier to enforce traffic laws. The public will be more cautious and less likely to break any traffic rule when they are aware of being watched by the authorities," he said.

He also suggested that people use public transport as it is the safest option available, according to police data. In 2022, for example, motorcyclists accounted for the highest number of road fatalities at 67.45 percent, followed by car drivers and passengers at 17.91 percent, and bus drivers and passengers at 0.44 percent.

"(Given these statistics) public transport providers such as bus operators and trains should offer affordably-priced tickets (during festive seasons) to encourage more people to use public transport,” he added. - BERNAMA