Malaysian roads are not for the faint-hearted and can be a cut-throat place.
There are the queue-jumpers who try to get ahead, the emergency-lane users who coast on the fast track, the ruthless ones who won’t let you get ahead of them when you are trying to switch lanes, motorcyclists who will not be stopped by a mere red light leaving everyone to eat their proverbial dust, and lumbering heavy vehicles in the middle lane that hinder others from progressing.
These are everyday occurrences familiar to most, if not all, Malaysian drivers.
But there are special instances where even the most jaded and blasé motorist would go, “Huh! I did not expect to see that!”
Here are just 10 of the #facepalm moments that we have encountered on the road:
1. Back up now, slowly ...
The first time you see a car reversing on the highway, you might stare in disbelief but after the third, fourth or fifth occasion, you’ll get over it quickly enough and just drive past with only a shake of your head.
Yes, this scenario is more common than you think.
The driver, after realising they have missed their exit, throws the gears into reverse to get back to the slip road on the left lane. Just think about the unsuspecting motorists approaching from behind at about (minimum) 80kph. Such a reckless move should be avoided. Use the GPS on the cellphone.
2. Multi-tasking? No problem!
The most bizarre sight I had come across was a man reading – a book, no less – while he was driving along the Shah Alam Expressway. It looked like a good 200-page-thick tome and if you were wondering, no, we were not stuck in a bumper-to-bumper crawl.
While many motorists have, at one time or another, tried to read (or even reply) messages on their phones while driving, this chap takes multi-tasking behind the wheel to a whole new level.
3. Child’s play
Parents who drive with toddlers on their lap should have their licences revoked and made to attend Parenting 101. One such parent was spotted exiting the Federal Highway, while another was seen entering the Shah Alam Expressway.
Babies and toddlers sitting with their mothers in the front passenger seat are in just as much danger.
Also at risk of injury are children left to bounce around in the back seat.
Get a baby seat and secure your child in it even for a short drive. Older children who have outgrown the booster seat should be buckled in with the safety belt in the back seat.
4. The braking game
If you have the misfortune of coming up behind one of these drivers, you have all the time in the world to observe that they brake every 200m or so. I kid you not!
And they remain firmly in the right-most lane!
5. Two-wheeled flexibility
I had a mild panic attack while driving along the New Klang Valley Expressway one night when I saw a single light heading towards me.
But it soon became clear it was not a ghostly light but an actual motorcyclist riding down the expressway – against traffic!
6. Out of left field
This frequently happens at busy U-turns, where drivers find the queue on the right lane way too long. So they take the left lane and make a 180°-turn from the outer lane, at times causing you to jerk to a stop because the space is too narrow and they are suddenly in your path. Conversely there are drivers who occupy the U-turn lane just because there are fewer cars here, although they have no intention of making the turn but are heading straight.
7. Always right
These are Malaysian drivers who seem to think that Malaysia uses a left-hand drive road system. So, they chug along in the overtaking lane although they are moving slower than the vehicles (which sometimes include buses and lorries) whizzing past on their left.
The ones who will make you pull your hair out will, after slowing down traffic on the right lane over some 7km, suddenly veer to the far left to exit the highway!
A facepalm moment within this #facepalm instant is seeing a four-lane highway seemingly only having two lanes as far as drivers are concerned when traffic is flowing smoothly but suddenly a three-lane street magically becomes six lanes when cars are all jammed up.
8. Free for all
Along with roadhogs, drivers who double and triple-park or park illegally on the roadside despite vacant bays being plentiful, are the bane of civic-conscious motorists. In one instance in Shah Alam, the driver of an SUV spent more than five minutes inching backward and forward, manoeuvring out of the designated bay because he was impeded by a car illegally parked on the side of the road. In Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur, the owner of a car blocked from exiting the parking bay was furiously honking for nearly 15 minutes before the offending driver turned up to remove the double-parked vehicle.
9. What’s a roundabout?
Shah Alam is a city of roundabouts. They exist in all sizes here. When it is small enough, drivers wishing to turn right take a shortcut by going counter-clockwise. This happens a lot on residential roads.
10. Waste bins not needed
Although technically not “on-the-road”, you would have come across car owners clearing their vehicles of rubbish by unconcernedly sweeping everything out onto the ground in whatever public place they are parked.