Driving in Malaysia is too stressful, experts say, and the country needs to work towards a more effective means of managing its growing traffic problems.
Anyone who has needed to commute to and from (or within) a busy part of the country has experienced what it’s like to be stuck at a crawl. In fact, a perfect storm of congestion is about to occur again on the days leading up to Hari Raya 2022 after lockdowns interfered with ‘balik kampung’ festivities for 2 years in a row.
According to Malaysian Psychiatric Association president Dr. Hazli Zakaria, the problems that contribute to the elevated stress levels experienced routinely by motorists are more deeply rooted.
A lack of coordination is a primary example he cites, such as finding more appropriate times to conduct roadblocks and the carrying out of maintenance works. He also points to Singapore as an example of an efficient system to create a conducive on-road experience for its drivers.
“Many factors have been identified for contributing to increased stress levels when driving in this country including being forced to face roadblocks by the authorities who narrow lanes and poor timing in the implementation of maintenance works,” Dr. Hazli told Bernama.
“All these will affect the endurance of Malaysians or their ability to drive, hence there must be a management system which is user-friendly,” he added when asked to comment on the recent study that revealed Malaysia to be the 8th most stressful country to drive in.
When queried about the increased frustrations faced by drivers in contrast to Malaysia’s road quality which is higher relative to most of Southeast Asia, he mentions a lack of driver etiquette:
“[…] we often see situations when motorists are being reckless while on the road, squeezing between vehicles, changing lanes without signalling, or using the emergency lane without reason. This situation can lead to risky driving or cause other road users to be stressed and fail to keep their emotions in check, forcing them to act out of control on the road,” he said.
Datuk Dr. Khairil Anwar Abu Kassim, director-general of the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety (MIROS), linked the stresses of driving in Malaysia to problems at the workplace, financial situation, health, age, gender, and the purpose of the journey.
“There are five categories of stress identified among road users in Malaysia, namely, aggression, dislike of driving, hazard monitoring, proneness to fatigue and thrill-seeking. For example, aggression indicates an attitude or behaviour of motorists who are easily upset when facing an incident while driving especially among male drivers” he said.
On a slightly more personal note, it seems these experts are pretty well-versed in the troubles faced by the everyday driver in Malaysia. These are very plausible, common-sense reasons that all contribute to the problem.
However, they don’t exactly help matters when it comes to its possible resolution. As drivers, we pretty much already know why we might be stressed behind the wheel, but because so many of these factors are beyond our control, it is now up to the authorities and the government to coordinate an action plan to improve this.
Merely stating the obvious will not get the gears of change turning. A traffic management system that impacts every local driver for the better sounds like a daunting project, but simple improvements to road conditions, swifter/stricter punishment/enforcement of traffic laws, and orderly planning of our road network (particularly in dense areas) will alleviate the majority of woes to the average commuter.