PETALING JAYA: As the nation approaches its first long weekend since travel restrictions were lifted, road safety experts have urged caution when the exodus from the Klang Valley begins.
They have called for comprehensive pre-travel checks to ensure vehicles are in tip-top condition to make the long trip.
They have also reminded travellers to strictly observe standard operating procedures (SOP) on social distancing and putting on a face mask, given that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on Sunday that interstate travel across the peninsula would be allowed beginning the following day, raising anticipation of a long awaited trip to the kampung.
The enthusiasm has been heightened further by the fact that it is a public holiday on Tuesday to observe the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.
Many are expected to take an extra day off on Monday to make it a five-day break.
Universiti Putra Malaysia associate professor and head of road safety research Dr Law Teik Hua advised travellers to check their vehicles to ensure they are roadworthy, before making the trip.
“Among others, check the tyre pressure, make sure the brake and power steering fluids are changed or refilled,” he added.
Traffic psychology expert Dr Rozmi Ismail said travellers should also send their cars to be serviced before embarking on such a trip.
“Many would not have driven for a long time, given the restrictions on travel. They should check their vehicles to make sure they are still safe to be driven,” said Rozmi, who is a professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
He also pointed out that the human factor also plays a major role in ensuring road safety.
“Before starting on a long journey, make sure you were well rested the night before,” he advised.
Rozmi noted that Malaysians have been waiting for a long time to get back on the road and it is understandable that there will be a lot of excitement, coupled with impatience.
However, he advised drivers to stay calm and be patient.
“Make sure that everything is well planned. The driver should be peaceful and relaxed before hitting the road,” he said.
He also reminded travellers to observe the SOP to curb Covid-19. “Don’t take any risks and end up starting a new cluster in your kampung,” he said.
He said people should understand that even if they have been fully vaccinated, they are not immune to infection, so social distancing and wearing a face mask are still a must. “Bring along some sanitiser when you stop at the rest areas,” he added.
He and Law agreed that the authorities should inspect rest stops to ensure that there is no congestion.
Law expects the highway concessionaires to be able to manage the expected increase in traffic.
“They have adequate expertise to cope with an increase in the volume of traffic. This isn’t the first time that a significant number of people will be returning to their hometowns,” he pointed out.
“We have seen this many times during the festive seasons such as Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali,” he added.
However, he expressed concern that rest areas could get over-crowded. “Those who wish to take a break should observe the SOP strictly. Make sure you wear a face mask and ensure social distancing,” he advised.
He also proposed that a strategy be introduced to manage large crowds to prevent another surge in Covid-19 infection.
“For instance, the authorities can place a limit on the number of cars allowed to pull into a rest area at any one time to minimise congestion,” he said.
Finally, Law said, if it is not urgent, people should wait. “Deepavali is coming up soon. You could then do your balik kampung run,” he added.