On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Drivers still have a lot to learn about social graces

Finally, the Aussie lost his cool at his friend's suicidal tendencies,  demanding to know whether he had gone bananas. The Malaysian smiled, reassuring his friend that he was perfectly sound.

Beating the traffic lights, he reasoned, was the Malaysian thing to do  just like having teh tarik or nasi lemak in the morning.

“Don't worry-lah. In Malaysia, every time I see a red light, I try to  shoot straight. Very normal, all my family members do that, sure no  accident-one,'' he told the Aussie.

As they continued their journey the driver suddenly came to a screeching halt when he saw the green light at the next junction.

The confused Australian asked why he stopped abruptly. His friend turned and smiled at him.

“I must stop because my mother is passing on the opposite side. Family thing-what.''

This joke was shared by a listener during a recent Radio 4 talk show hosted by Patrick Teoh about traffic woes.

Funny as it may seem, the police are saying it's no laughing matter when it comes to dealing with Malaysian drivers, who are reputed to be inconsiderate, rude, reckless and dangerous.

Last week, Internal Security and Public Order Director Datuk Ghazali Yacub said police were now just as wary of motor vehicles as they were of guns in the wrong hands.

“Our men are trying to prevent people from injuring themselves and others, Now, they themselves have become victims of accidents they are trying to prevent,'' he told reporters after presenting a cheque for RM10,000 to traffic Kpl Abdullah Mohamed from Kurnia Insurance (M) Bhd at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

Kpl Abdullah was knocked down by a bus in an accident at the Seremban-Kuala Lumpur Expressway on Feb 17.

Since 1995, five traffic policemen have been killed and 116 injured when they were knocked down by vehicles while on duty.

With the media highlighting the growing social ills involving teenagers, the road bully issue seems to have received less attention but recent cases seem to suggest nothing has changed.

Many Malaysian drivers still go around bashing up other road users. Age and gender are no barriers.

On Jan 30, a 20-year-old male clerk in Klang was reportedly slapped by a woman motorist when he showed her his fist.

A motorist in Ipoh reported on Feb 17 to the police that he was assaulted by an elderly motorcyclist with a walking stick following a minor accident.

On Nov 8, an unarmed police inspector was beaten up by three bullies in Klang after a row over a parking lot.

No one is quite sure what to do with road bullies. We seem to have  forgotten about such thuggery.

We may not consider the bad attitude of our drivers as a social ill but it's a sad manifestation of our lack of social grace.

The affluence that comes along with our rapid economic development has not helped us to be more courteous on the roads.

Somehow, we do not know how to wave our hand to thank fellow motorists who give way to us. Instead, we are quicker at showing the middle figure on the slightest provocation.

Malaysia may have made quantum leaps in its technological advancements but Malaysians still have a long way to go when it comes to moral and social development.