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Wednesday July 1, 2009

18 people die on the road each day

AN average of 18 persons die on the road every day, according to statistics from the Road Safety Department.

The country’s road fatality rate last year was recorded at 3.9%, with 6,527 cases compared with 6,282 fatalities in 2007.

In Petaling Jaya, which has a high number of motorists due to the convergence of highways as well as its fast development, there were 21,504 road accidents last year, 124 of them fatal and 197 involved serious injuries.

Almost half of the cases (10,203), according to the traffic police’s statistics, occurred at the same 10 locations and many were at almost the same spots.

High accident rate: Damansara-Puchong Highway has the highest occurence of road accidents among all locations in Petaling Jaya, with 3,092 cases in 2008. This stretch near Damansara Utama is one of the dangerous spots.

The Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) tops the list, constituting 30% or 3,092 of the total cases at these locations. The accidents happened mostly at the bends or junctions near the LDP Furniture Plaza, Penchala toll plaza, Leisure Commerce Square, Western Digital and Damansara Utama.

It is followed by the Federal Highway where 2,164 accidents happened last year, especially at the Motorola junction, the Subang Airport access as well as the stretches facing the Lam Soon factory, the Guinness Anchor plant and the Naza World showroom.

The third on the list is the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE), with 811 cases, mostly around the NKVE-Subang toll plaza, Damansara toll plaza, NKVE exit toll plaza, KM459 Sungai Buloh-bound and the Damansara access.

The other accident hotspots are the Sungai Buloh-Kuala Selangor road (715 cases), Jalan Sungai Buloh (673), the SS2 commercial area (670), the Sprint Highway (609), Kota Damansara (561), the Sungai Buloh-Kampung Subang road (496) and Persiaran Surian (412).

On the Sprint Highway, the accident-prone spots are stretches facing Damansara Jaya, the Muslim cemetery in Bukit Kiara, Kampung Kayu Ara, Phileo Damansara and Damansara Jaya.

The high occurrence of accidents at specific spots shows that our roads are like death traps awaiting their preys, and this is compounded by the selfish, careless and haughty attitude of the motorists.

Traffic consultant Goh Bok Yen, after analysing the statistics, agreed that there were weaknesses in the design of these stretches that posed a danger to motorists.

“On the 10 selected roads, there is an average of 28 accidents daily with the highest on the LDP with 8.5 accidents followed by 5.9 accidents daily on the Federal Highway. Will these figures surprise the public? If so, obviously there are good reasons for the public to question,” he said.

According to Goh, a dual carriageway (with a central divider) was generally safer than the single carriageway (two-way road with no central divider) but unfortunately these 10 accident-prone locations are along the divided roads.

He pointed to the roads’ fundamental design flaws, which haunted the road users every day but were surprisingly overlooked by the road builders.

Goh identifies the common characteristics (weaknesses) of these locations as:

l Design deficiency (below the safe/allowable standards) due to high physical and engineering constraints. Sometimes it is unavoidable in urban situation but it should be supplemented by other safety measures such as warning sign, speed control or other traffic calming measures;

Dangerous: Imagine the risk motorcyclists have to take when they want to go to Subang Jaya (far right) from this motor lane, on the New Klang Valley Expressway after the NKVE-Subang toll plaza.

·High weaving traffic movements (criss-crossing) with short weaving length, meaning too much lane switching within short distance due to the large number of exit and access junctions along the main road;

·Accidents usually take place before diverging and climbing to the on-ramp or merging movements after the off-ramp, as well as the turning movements on the slip roads; and

·Sharp curves without adequate warning signs or other safety measures.

“We cannot deny that these locations have unsatisfactory designs. However, the design can be optimised either by physical improvements or additional safety measures. The statistics show clearly that such reviews are warranted,” Goh said.

Also notable is his company’s findings of a traffic weaving research which shows that the local drivers have more or less become accustomed to the rude and reckless driving manners.

It has been found out that, while the gap that an American or a British driver would feel comfortable when another vehicle takes over is 2 seconds and 1.5 seconds respectively when they are travelling at 60km/h, Malaysians can accept 1 second at 90km/h.

“We have even seen drivers doing it with only 0.5 second, which is certainly unsafe, but it is rather normal in the Malaysian scene,” Goh said.

High risk: Accidents happen often at this stretch right after the NKVE-Subang toll plaza as motorists criss-cross to access one of the two diverging roads. Motorcyclists have to negotiate through multiple lanes from the motor lane (far left) to the Subang access (right).

Petaling Jaya OCPD ACP Arjunaidi Mohamed and Traffic Unit head ASP Wong Siew Choon endorsed Goh’s comment on the potentially fatal driving attitude of Malaysians.

“While the physical aspects of some roads need improvement, the drivers’ attitude contributes significantly to the high accident occurrence at these locations,” Arjunaidi said.

He said the local motorists tended to speed when negotiating sharp bents, when traffic light turned amber and when criss-crossing at busy junctions.

Arjunaidi noted that Petaling Jaya had the highest collection of traffic compound fines among all police districts in the country - RM6.8mil last year and RM10mil in 2007.

“The police have been conducting operations, including Ops Sikap, as frequent as four to six times every day at various locations in the city,” he said.

“Still, no matter how much we have tried to drum the right values to the motorists, they still need to take their own initiative to change,” Arjunaidi said.

According to Arjunaidi, road accidents in Petaling Jaya involved mostly motorists aged between 26 and 30 years, the group constituting 18% of the total cases last year.

Most accidents involved cars (75%), followed by motorcycles (7%) and lorries (5%).

Arjunaidi said that the police had also been having regular discussions with the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) on how to enhance road safety at the accident hot spots.

Wong, meanwhile, pointed out that there were as many as 800,000 vehicles plying Petaling Jaya roads every hour at the busiest time of the day, with the city having six major highways and a population of 1.6 million (according to 2004 census).

“Road safety deserves everyone’s attention. The extent of casualties and the amount of property loss are among the top in the country, even when compared with disease and natural disaster,” Wong said.

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