Our daily battle with Malaysian road conditions

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Photograph: Mokhsin Abidin/Rakyat Post

We all deserve to drive without facing the risk of fatality on a daily basis because of poor road conditions, says Adrian Lee.

Recently, RM196m in contracts was awarded to long-term contractors for road maintenance in Selangor. And their work quality would be measured using a Key Performance Index (KPI).

But even if their work was considered as “shoddy”, their “punishment” would be merely be a reduction in rates. In other words, they would still be paid even if they provide sub-par work.

If the state is truly serious about resolving issues related to road maintenance, how about letting road users decide the KPI for these contractors? And should their work be “shoddy”, their contracts should contain a termination clause.

On a daily basis, Malaysians are forced to use rally-driving skills to steer past meteor-sized potholes or molehill-sized manholes. Crashing into a pothole is akin to a 4D-simulated motion ride of collapsing in and (hopefully) out.

Those who are less fortunate and incapable of avoiding potholes have lost lives or limbs. It doesn’t matter whether one drives in a housing area, city or highway; Malaysian roads are appalling.

Measure the time before you hit a pothole, sinkhole, elevated manhole, crack, bulge, or any form of road defect? Most of the time, it doesn’t take long.

And have you memorised where any form of road defects are located? Most of us have – because Malaysian roads are poorly maintained and hazardous.

Driving can be financially, psychologically and physically painful. Badly maintained roads can damage spokes, rims, suspensions, dashboards, braking systems, tyres and rims. Money spent on repairs would cause a dent in one’s wallet.

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Potholes are often left unrepaired for months, and Malaysian drivers are used to seeing a branch, table or traffic cone hazardously placed above a pothole to indicate the danger ahead.

The fact that our roads pose numerous hazards is distressing. An unresolved issue for decades, these hazards must be recognised by town and city councils and politicians as a threat to safety.

Such hazards can be avoided if the proper authorities are observant about road conditions in their constituencies or residential area. They too should travel on the same horrendous roads as we do unless of course they are never around or travel intra-city by air or in vehicles fitted with terrific suspensions.

It isn’t logical to blame damage to roads on the weather or to label them as “acts of God”. Surely, the gravel and tar used is capable of weathering rain, heat, dust and heavy usage and wasn’t developed for interior usage.

Overloaded vehicles and second-rate road works are often blamed as the main culprits that damage roads. And it remains a mystery why perfectly tarred road sometimes need to be dug up and then poorly resurfaced.

We are reminded that road works are necessary for “kesulitan hari ini adalah untuk keselesaan hari esok” (today’s inconvenience is for tomorrow’s comfort). But upon completion, the road isn’t very much “selesa” for it is often shoddily patched up or perhaps only one side of the road is properly resurfaced.

But if a foreign dignitary or important government figure be scheduled to pass along a damaged road, resurfacing works would be carried out in record time for the “keselesaan” of that VIP.

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And within a few days/weeks/months, the familiar sight for sore eyes of the road’s gravel being dug for whatever motive may take place again.

Perhaps roads are hastily patched up as road works personnel do not want to risk their lives as vehicles whizz pass them in the dark while they work without proper warnings, signage, and lighting.

Some of these workers are expected to stop or redirect vehicles using only a torchlight or lighted baton. That is if they are provided with one.

It is often assumed that personnel working in pitch-dark conditions become invincible merely by putting on a hardhat and reflector vest.

Only highway road work seem to have proper warnings to motorists of road work ahead. Many of these are hastily put together while some can be dangerous if not preposterous: the road work signs may suddenly limit speeds to a mere 20km/h.

Malaysian drivers are therefore infamously glorified as capable of driving anywhere in the world. This statement, however, without empirically backed data, illustrates the dreadful conditions of Malaysian roads and many of its drivers.

The apathetic and lackadaisical attitudes of the authorities in maintaining roads have prompted some members of the public to collectively patch up potholes or construct their own roads.

Certain city councils, however, have rebuked these individuals for carrying out their duties, which were ironically not carried out in the very first place.

If certain roads in cities such as Penang and Kuala Lumpur can be in poor conditions, it is hard to imagine what road conditions in some rural areas are like.

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Take a drive in Singapore, a country with similar weather conditions and notice that one doesn’t need to frantically manoeuvre to avoid potholes, unseen road works personnel and road defects. Surely, God can’t be more favourably disposed to our southern neighbour when it comes to road conditions.

We all deserve to drive without facing the risk of fatality on a daily basis because of poor road conditions. After all, the wheels on our cars are designed to go round and round along smooth roads and not in and out of potholes!

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