I AM an Italian living in Malaysia and loving and enjoying this country very much. But my joy has been dampened over the past two weeks because my dearest Malaysian friend, Leo Huzair, at the moment is lying in bed unconscious at the Sungai Buloh Hospital. Leo is in a coma, fighting for his life for the past 13 days. I want to write him a letter even if he cannot read it. I write because I believe he can “feel” my words.
I also want to share this message with all drivers and motorcyclists in Malaysia. Please do not drive or ride too fast.
Leo became like this because he met with an accident at a traffic light. He was on his bike while the other party was in a car – a lady driver. Both of them were fast at the traffic light. There’s nobody to be blamed in this case but I think had they driven slowly, the accident might not have happened.
Malaysians are kind and gentle and I have met many genuine, honest and nice people here, including Leo. Leo called me mio fratello (my brother). Because of the kind people, I feel more comfortable and happier in Malaysia than in my native country.
But gentle Malaysians sometimes are different when they at the wheel. I see many of them break laws on the road. I see motorcyclists ignoring the red traffic light, making U-turns where we are not supposed to, and riding against the flow of traffic.
We must always remember that a vehicle is just a tool that we need to control. Let’s prevent this tool from becoming a weapon.
I think we should also be gentle when driving. We should abide by the traffic law. We must set an example to children by being courteous everywhere including on the road.
Perhaps we can visit patients at hospitals to see what happens to those who meet with accidents. When one is involved in an accident, many parties suffer. I felt tremendous pain seeing Leo. I also feel pain seeing his parents’ sadness and despair. The suffering is beyond words.
The suffering is worse because we do not know when Leo will wake up. We also do not know if Leo can be the person he was before if he does manage to wake up. Worse still, we are not sure if he can wake up at all. I cannot bear thinking about these lovely friends of mine losing their son.
Looking at Leo, I think of how precious life is. So I think that when we drive, we must have in mind that our life is the most valuable thing that God gave us. We must take extra care of it. Hence, we must not drive fast to value what is given to us by God. We must not think that the law is binding us. Instead, the law is there to protect our limbs and life.
To wake Leo up, we resort to many things. Among other things, doctors said it is okay for me to shout near him. So I do. But Leo still does not wake up. The family tickles his feet, caresses him and speaks to him. He still lies unconscious. There’s been no response from him.
When Leo wakes up, God willing, I will have to tell him: “When you drive, please do not speed, slow down because driving wildly is a very dangerous activity.” We can easily lose our life if we do so. It does not matter if we are rushing or we are afraid to arrive late. It is better to be late and safe. Driving too fast will reduce our ability and time to respond to something unexpected on the road.
All the while, I have been telling Leo this motto: “Chi va piano va sano e lontano (Slow and steady wins the race)”. But on that fateful day, he forgot the motto.
Road traffic accidents are the fourth leading cause of death in the world. And studies on road traffic accidents note that speed is a key issue here. It increases the fatality of injuries and severity of damages. Human suffering is beyond words and socioeconomic costs are tremendous. Medical expenses are high. Hence we should abide by the permissible speed limit and traffic laws when driving and riding.
DR PIERMAURO CATARINELLA
Academy of Language Studies
UiTM, Shah Alam