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Friday, June 10, 2011

Why Emergency Lanes Not for Escaping Jams?

KUALA LUMPUR: Klang Valley motorists continue to court danger by recklessly driving along emergency lanes to escape waiting in queues during traffic jams. A Streets check along the 36km stretch of the Federal Highway between Klang and Cheras during rush hour found motorists brazenly using the lane meant for emergency vehicles.

The check was conducted two days after two men were killed on emergency lanes in the city recently. In the first incident on Wesak day, a van travelling on the emergency lane at the Jalan 222 interchange on the Federal Highway crashed into a maintenance worker before dragging him for over 30 metres.

In the second incident, also on the same day, a motorcyclist died after the driver of a car travelling on the middle lane of the North-South Expressway near the Duta Toll Plaza lost control and hit the motorcyclist who was using the emergency lane.

Our checks also found that even during non-congestion periods, cars and other vehicles habitually used the emergency lanes. They were seen driving along the lanes to avoid congestion and weaving in and out of it into adjacent lanes to overtake other vehicles.

During traffic jams, motorists can be seen using the emergency lane from the moment they entered the highway until they reached their respective exits. One motorist was observed driving through the emergency lane from the stretch near Taman Jaya, Petaling Jaya, until after the Batu Tiga toll plaza.

Another motorist driving through the emergency lane almost caused a pile-up at the Sunway-Shah Alam stretch of the highway. The driver stepped on her brake just in time to avoid two four-wheel-drive vehicles which had broken down on the emergency lane. Behind her was a stretch of cars also misusing the lane.

Some motorists, meanwhile, stop their vehicles on emergency lanes to make or answer a phone call, ask for directions or wait for friends and family who were disembarking at bus stops along the highway.

When asked why they are using the emergency lanes, the most common excuses given were that they were not feeling well, they had to fetch a sickly relative and they had to answer the call of nature urgently.

Some had the temerity to blame the authorities for poor road planning. The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety, however, is not buying the excuses. Its director-general Prof Ahmad Farhan Sadullah said emergency lanes were only meant for emergency vehicles such as fire engines, police cars and ambulances or emergency situations.

"There are no exceptions to the rule and the police and Road Transport Department must be strict in enforcing the proper use of the emergency lanes," he said.

"Many motorists are prone to use emergency lanes during peak periods in the morning and evening due to the traffic congestion," he said, adding that hotspots for the abuse of the emergency lanes are near ramps and exits.

He also warned motorcyclists, not to use the emergency lanes as vehicles could lose control and crash into them as a result. He also said that accidents and unnecessary congestion occurred when motorists try to exit the emergency lanes and get into mainstream traffic.

He also urged motorcylists not to seek shelter under flyovers as they could be hit by other vehicles. Bukit Aman Traffic chief Datuk Abdul Aziz Yusof agreed with Prof Farhan, saying that the only excuse acceptable besides car breakdowns were to attend to a person with a medical emergency.

"When we catch a person without a real emergency stalling and driving through the lane we advise them to drive out of the lane," he said.

He, however, warned that those posing danger to themselves and others could face a maximum fine of RM300. Meanwhile, Aziz advised motorists and passengers to observe safety precautions if they need to park their vehicles in the emergency lane. They should park their vehicles inside the lane and place cones or hazard triangles.

He also called on them to stand behind the guard rails while waiting for highway patrol officers or emergency response teams.

Source: NST Online

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