Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In a Traffic Jam, Learn to Give Way

Drive in Kuala Lumpur (KL) long enough and you'll understand the importance of giving way. Lane hogging and cutting off other drivers would only worsen the jam and cause tempers to flare.
Don't believe me? Try to cut off every single person who needs to switch into your lane and then try to switch lanes yourself in front of someone as uncompromising as you.
Infuriating, isn't it?
Unfortunately, not everyone is convinced that giving way is perfectly good etiquette and one that is to be expected of civil society.
"It's just so weird that people simply cut you off at the slightest opportunity here (in KL)," as a close cousin of mine from the UK said. "In the UK, this would be a major cause for road rage."
"Well, if you hold on to your right of way as though it's a God given right, at some point, you will have to switch lanes... then what?" I retorted.
"Well, you should raise your hand (as a way of asking permission) and say thank you...," he responded, reaffirming his stand.
Since it was a family get-together of sorts, I let it go - didn't want to sour the occasion by being quarrelsome over something seemingly minor. But it has been playing in my head ever since.
Really, now? Should giving way be done so grudgingly that you only do so when people take the trouble to lift a hand in salute or look you in the eyes with a smile on their faces?
In a typical KL traffic snarl where motorcycle riders zip through lanes at high speeds, there just isn't enough time or much opportunity for such niceties. If there's a reasonable opening, just signal with your indicator and move in.
What's wrong with that?
And what's reasonable? Well, reasonable is when you don't cause the driver whom you're cutting off to brake or swerve suddenly. Reasonable is when you allow the driver whom you're cutting off to slow down at a comfortable pace.
In other words, reasonable is when the driver you're cutting off experiences only a minor inconvenience - the sort of inconvenience he or she would inevitably impose on others as well. This is what giving and taking in a KL traffic snarl is all about.
If you haven't taken to this driving etiquette yet, eventually you will.
Despite his protestations, my cousin from the UK now drives like any other KL dweller when he's back in KL. Whenever he needs to switch lanes, he looks for a reasonable opportunity, signals with his indicator and moves in - no waving, no smiling; he just goes.

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