Starting from tomorrow, we will experience our annual “balik kampung” exodus. I’m sure that for the last two weeks, Malaysians have been busy preparing for the first day of Syawal, in anticipation of the excitement that will await us as we arrive home to our loved ones.
However, there is one preparation that I believe is of utmost importance, which is ensuring that our vehicles are in the proper and safe conditions as we embark on our journey home before Hari Raya.
As one of the few car-producing nations in the world, Malaysia has come a long way in increasing safety levels of vehicles produced and sold to Malaysians.
Even entry level models, such as the Perodua Axia and Proton Saga are fitted with safety features that qualify them for at least a four star safety ratings.
Nevertheless, just like how our engines require periodic servicing, so must the safety conditions of our vehicles be maintained.
While manufacturers strive to ensure that the car is delivered with the required safety specifications, it is the owner’s responsibility to keep their cars safe and roadworthy.
It is important for note that vehicle safety not just limited to seatbelts and airbags alone, but is rather a system of components working harmoniously to prevent accidents, as well as avoid injury should the worst happen.
Your brakes, tyres, steering, suspension, windshield wipers, and even your horns must play their roles when the moment calls for it. Therefore it is unwise to neglect or delay any repairs when these systems malfunction.
The second component of our journey home is ourselves. While our cars can to be maintained at a pristine, their performance and reliability are far more predictable than our abilities to maintain focus on the road.
My last "balik kampung" journey was a staggering 15 hours. Even at slower speeds, such taxing conditions are a major hazard to ourselves, our families and motorists around us.
The hazards of driving under fatigued or under the influence of medication are well documented. Several advances in the study of sleep have pointed to the occurrence of micro-sleep, or a temporary lapse into sleep or drowsiness between a second to half a minute.
As it takes only a second for an accident to occur, the consequences of micro-sleeping is clear, and the most important thing is to understand the reasons and symptoms of microsleep.
Current studies show that a major contributor to microsleep is sleep deprivation. However, some cases occur while performing monotonous tasks such as, ironically, driving a vehicle.
As the journey to our hometowns is often a family event, the drive should be a family responsibility just as much. In order to maintain focus, switch drivers as much as possible. In fact, don’t make the driving experience a monotonous one. Passangers should be good co-pilots and help keep the driver entertained.
With that in mind, let’s all make this year’s Raya an accident-free celebration. I’d like to wish all my readers Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and maaf zahir dan batin.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Institute.