More Than 30 Singaporeans Die Every Year in Malaysia
Teo Cheng Wee - Straits Times Indonesia | October 25, 2011
Kuala Lumpur. Some 30 to 40 Singaporeans die in fatal accidents in Malaysia every year, because they speed on the highways, are unfamiliar with roads there, or are not used to driving long distances.
Another 50 to 70 are injured in these accidents, over half of which take place in the state of Johor, just across the Causeway, and many of them on highways.
Road experts say many Singaporeans tend to "let loose" on Malaysian roads, in the mistaken impression that there is no speed limit on the highways - or that the chances of getting caught are very low.
The overall speed limit on the North-South Expressway, which runs the length of Peninsular Malaysia, is 110kmh, with the limit on certain dangerous stretches dropping to 80kmh or 90kmh.
The highest speed limit on Singapore's expressways, in contrast, is 90kmh.
The figures, which come from the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), show that the death toll of Singaporeans in Malaysia is about a quarter of that in Singapore, where 195 motorists lost their lives last year.
Some 17,500 Singapore vehicles, excluding motorcycles, enter Malaysia every day, either for work, holidays or as part of car clubs which head north regularly to make the most of Malaysia's long expressways.
The fatality and injury numbers for Singaporeans have been relatively constant over the last few years, added Miros.
Many of the accidents take place because many Singaporeans seem 'more tempted' to speed when driving here, its director-general Wong Shaw Voon told The Straits Times. Also, some are unfamiliar with high-speed driving and overtaking on smaller roads.
"Singaporeans seem more prone to speeding when driving on Malaysian highways," Wong said.
He added, however, that the statistics do not mean that Johor is the most dangerous place to drive in.
"Wherever Singaporeans want to travel to, whether it's Kuala Lumpur, Perak or Penang, they have to drive through Johor," he noted. "The increased frequency makes it more likely for accidents to happen there."
Overall, though, Singaporean motorists made up only a small proportion - less than 1 percent - of Malaysia's accidents and deaths. Last year, more than 6,800 Malaysians were killed on its roads, or about 18 each day.
Such fatalities have been rising steadily through the years, and are 20 percent higher than they were a decade ago.
Horrific accidents on Malaysia's highways often make headlines in both local and overseas media, reinforcing an image of the country's roads and motorists as unsafe.
Last year, 28 people - mostly Thai tourists - were killed when a tour bus overturned on its way down from Cameron Highlands, in one of the country's worst bus accidents in years.
But these figures tell only half the story, as Wong points out, even as he acknowledged that Malaysia needs to work harder to reduce the accidents.
The number of vehicles on Malaysia's roads has boomed, from 11 million in 2001 to 20 million last year, multiplying the likelihood of accidents.
Taking these numbers into account, Malaysia's fatality rate has actually fallen, said Wong. It dropped from 5.17 per 10,000 vehicles in 2001 to 3.43 last year, continuing a downward trend which first began in the mid-1990s.
In Singapore, the fatality rate among motorists is 2.03 per 10,000 vehicles.
Malaysia's authorities say they have taken measures to make the country's highways and roads safer, for instance by installing signages and improving visibility at accident hot spots and potentially dangerous bends.
In a bid to reduce accidents involving motorcyclists, who make up 60 percent of all fatalities, the government is also building the country's longest motorcycle lane. To be built in stages from now to 2020, it will run from Perlis to Johor along a main trunk road.
Singaporeans who drive in Malaysia regularly say the risks come mainly from speeding.
Civil servant Faizal Hassan, 31, who drives up to Kuala Lumpur at least five to six times a year, believes that with some common sense and precautions, it is not difficult to stay safe on Malaysia's roads.
He gives way to faster cars, and avoids traveling during peak hours, as well as on roads that he is not familiar with.
"I see at most one accident every five trips I take. That's not a lot, but then when it comes to accidents, you can say that even one is too much," said Faizal, who had just driven - incident-free - to Kuala Lumpur and back last weekend.