Friday, April 26

The art of problem anticipation

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THE ability to foretell the exact nature of future events belongs to the very few and to the past. However, many humans, if you count the psychics, and certain birds and animals such as the elephants and dogs can sense trouble coming at some future date.

Did you read the story about the elephant that refused to go near the beach at Phattaya in Thailand a couple of hours before the tsunami of 2006 devastated the coastal areas?

That elephant and its driver turned around and headed for higher ground and they were safe there. While the beast could anticipate a disaster, its human minder did not.

Defensive driving

Not every one has the intuition of an elephant, but many humans still possess the instinct of selfpreservation.

On the road, he’s the one who adopts the art of defensive driving. It is claimed that defensive driving saves lives. If anything it has the effect of reducing the risks of accidents and in that sense saves lives.

Left is right

The AAM people recommend this form of driving. The driver is alert; he is canny. He drives on the right side of the road. In this country, the left hand side of the road is the right one. He has been to a good school and learnt the Highway Code inside out, and he has gone beyond those rules. He has learnt the lessons on ANTICIPATION, found in the chapter on ‘Common Sense’.

No one can prevent an accident, not even our venerable elephant, but the art of anticipation may reduce a nasty bump on your car.

One sunny day, while your thoughts are wandering in faraway places, the guy in front suddenly swerves to the next lane without giving a signal!

“O, my gosh, that [email protected]#%&!”. Your reaction would never be generous in such as situation, though anger, doctors say, is not good for the heart.

Luckily, you are a defensive driver, having been deliberately keeping a safe distance of 7-10 metres away from the bloke who is rehearsing for the coming Formula One contests. You have been all the time regarding the man (or woman) in front as a potential hazard. You have thus averted a nasty accident. On a busy road, however, a knock on each other there would cause a pile up.

On the road there are at least always three users at any one time: the one in front, the middle (you), and the one at the back. The ideal scenario would be if all the three were defensive drivers.

But that’s not the daily scenario on Malaysian roads at all. We have all kinds of road users: those above 70 years of age are allowed to crawl under 17kmph, thus driving those at 18 years mad. It’s their roads, they say, and doing 120kmh is the norm because there is no tomorrow.

Smart alecs are part of life

The most awkward situation in which one finds oneself is when some smart guy overtakes you from the left, dying to squeeze to rejoin the lane in front. But as a defensive driver, you could handle this irritant all right, knowing that you are doing him or her a favour. Just keep the standard Australian adjective for this character until you are safely home.

Speed kills

One of the reasons why there have not been many serious accidents on the Autobahn in Germany for many years is that the drivers are allowed to literally fly on this highway without worrying about the law. You are on cloud nine there on your four wheels, if you are the type of chap who love speed more than your life — your own or some one else’s.

In Kuching, however, we have converted any road into an autobahn. We have converted the old airport road into race tracts around midnight. When the fun is on, annoyed residents of the area signal the Polis Ronda and only then the stupid heroes move elsewhere.

Whatever the theory on the ‘safety’ of the speed on the European autobahn, in many other parts of the world, speed still kills. In New Zealand, the highway authorities put a billboardwith the sign ‘Speed Kills’, or ‘Don’t Drink While Driving or Don’t Drive While Drinking’, somewhere near the scene of a recent accident. Relatives or friends place flowers or a wooden cross there.

Every driver is a potential killer

On the road, he has a dangerous weapon at his command, the bigger and the more expensive the vehicle the more powerful it is. Drive at night along the trunk road to Bandar Sri Aman at night on a rainy day and you will experience the tension. Drivers of those heavy vehicle carriers and logging trucks have as heavy a duty of care to other road users as the weight of the monsters under their control. They literally look down on the little mouse deer, the Kancil, and the motorcyclists.

A defensive driver is always a conscientious and careful one: well prepared for any eventuality. He (‘he’ hereinafter embraces ‘she’) has all the necessary tools in the car and probably keeps a portable fire extinguisher handy. He has the engine regularly checked and wellmaintained.

He has the canny sense of anticipation.

A defensive driver is invariably the one who goes beyond his own safety. He is akin to a good aircraft pilot or a responsible taxi driver like mine — he cares for the passengers and the craft he is handling.

I believe that if half the number of Malaysian drivers were defensive, the rate of accidents in this country would be much lower than it is. It is frightening to know that our accident rate is one of the highest in the world.

So drive defensively, mate.