I had waited at least a full three-seconds after the light turned red before twisting the throttle and starting to move the little Honda scooter.
But no, apparently I had not waited long enough. Half way through the U-turn on the two lane road, a Proton Iswara came barrelling through the traffic lights.
The driver was going at least 60kph. I gunned the throttle and the little Honda sprinted across the dual lane road. The Iswara missed the Honda’s tail by a hair’s breadth.
It didn’t graze the Honda, but the sight of the Iswara at speed so close to the little scooter knocked the breath out of my lungs. I wanted to shout at the driver, or give him a one-finger salute. But I was just too startled.
All I could do was glare as the driver, a ‘Pakcik’ with a ketayap, nonchalantly glanced at me from inside the speeding car.
What is it with Malaysians and traffic lights?
When the traffic light turns red, it is not a mere suggestion to stop.
You are required to do so by law. Failing which, you can be fined under Section 79(2) of the Road Transport Act 1987. The maximum fine is RM2,000.
Yet, drive on Malaysian roads, and you will no doubt think that traffic lights are merely suggestive implements that you can choose whether to adhere to or not.
Very frequently in the Klang Valley, you will see motorcycles jumping the lights after a cursory left and right glance.
Some have become so brazen that they barely even slow down when coming to the lights. These habitual offenders are a real menace to the well-being of other road users.
In 2015, police issued 491,479 fines to offenders who beat the lights. Out of the total, 78% were caught committing the offence via the Red Light Surveillance Camera System (RLSC) at 17 hotspots in the city. The remainder received fines from police officers.
Yet, traffic signals continue to be flagrantly disregarded on a daily basis. Is it a failure of enforcement, is the fine too low, or is our society so bereft of civic consciousness that even a simple box with three lights, which is used with success around the world, fails to function properly here?
The offenders come in all shapes and sizes, age and creed. I have seen representatives of almost every race, young and old, including the ‘ketayap’ed casually run traffic lights.
Running a traffic light is now listed as one of the offences under the newly implement automated awareness safety system (AWAS) which has just been implemented. With AWAS, the Automated Enforcement System (AES) cameras and Demerit Points System (Kejara) will be linked.
Offenders will get demerit points for each offence, and once they have accumulated beyond a treshold, their driving license will be suspended, and eventually revoked. Which means these habitual offenders will be driven off the road, which is good, because that is where they belong.
Beyond these rules that seek to correct or redress by force of law, Malaysians need to stop for a while and think more deeply about the potential impact their seemingly trivial transgression can have on others.
For each individual that flaunts the rules and chooses to put his or her selfish impatience ahead of others, there is a potential loser at the other end of the equation. It could be a random stranger, a fellow nameless Malaysian. Or it could be your father, mother, sibling or other family member.
Think about that when you come up to a traffic light and fail to slow down. That bloody mess left in the aftermath of an accident could be someone you love, or maybe even you.