Monday, September 17, 2007

The True Cause of Malaysian Traffic Jams

The other day, while having lunch at the office, conversation inevitably turned to one of us Malaysians' favourite topics - traffic jams. My boss commented that he noticed that in LA, California, traffic is heavy but usually moving, while in Malaysia, things often come to a standstill. He believes the reason for this is the stupidity of Malaysian drivers who, i. don't follow the traffic rules, and ii. don't use their common sense.

That got me thinking. Is it really true that everything would be okay if all Malaysians could just get some common sense (which is not so common after all) into their heads? Here are a few common causes of traffic jams that I can think of:-

1. Accidents - one is all it takes on a highway to make everyone late by a few hours. I was amazed at how people can get into serious accidents in very slow traffic, until one day I found myself day dreaming and almost banged into the car in front of me. So, 1-0 to stupidity.

2. Giving way - Some roads are designed such that traffic from two roads are supposed to merge gradually. But more often that not, cars on both lanes refuse to give way. The result? Deadlock on both lanes. 2-0 to stupidity and lack of common sense.

3. Construction work - For some reason, city councils and police see it fit to let construction workers who have ZERO experience in traffic management to block the lanes and to direct traffic. The result? Frayed tempers and rude gestures as drivers pass by the offending stretch. 2-1.

4. Floods - Despite building world class airports and buildings, apparently building effective drainage is beyond us. Or rather, it is folks who dumps all sorts of rubbish into the drains, resulting in flash floods galore whenever it pours. 2-2.

5. Cutting queues - instead of lining up on the correct lane early, most folks prefer to jump to the front of the queue and force some poor driver to give way. Stupidity in the lead again, 3-2.

6. Lane switching - this is a very strange phenomenon that I have not yet fully understood. For some reason, if the roads ahead present multiple choices, inevitably people get confused and snarl up the traffic. I guess I could blame it on poorly placed signages, so 3-3 it is then.

7. People who slow down to stare at accidents - this is a classic Malaysian behaviour. Even if the accident is only blocking one lane on a four lane highway, traffic on BOTH sides of the highway would come to a standstill. 4-3, in the lead and pulling away!

8. Car breakdowns - Okay, there's an element of chance in this one, but on more than a few occasions I saw the highway patrol pouring petrol into the stalled car. I'll be fair and not give any score for this one. Still 4-3.

9. VIP entourages - On my home via Tun Razak-Sg Besi one day, I encountered THREE entourages, each with its own fleet of siren blaring traffic police. 4-4!

Okay, after 9 causes I'm beginning to get depressed, so I've decided to stop here. But based on my unscientific findings, I have to say that it could indeed be true that if we all gained some common sense tomorrow our traffic jams would be reduced by 50% :)

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