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Malaysian driving habits – Merging lanes

June 12, 2008

Today I want to rant about one of the biggest reasons for traffic jams in the country – merging lanes.

At the housing area where I live, one of the exit roads have 3 lanes that merge into one. I spend waste 15 minutes of my life every day going through that bottleneck. This is what I observe.

1. Drivers will occupy every inch of the 3 lanes available right up to the merge point where the traffic bunches up and stands still.

2. At the merge point, everyone plays a game of chicken. Without asking for permission (signaling), cars from the other lanes would slowly inch into that one exit lane, testing each other’s nerves to see who will give way first. I have seen drivers nearly coming to blows after having their paint scratched.

3. In the rare instance when there is an orderly queue, i.e. people realizing that single-file traffic clears the bottleneck faster, all it takes is one idiot to suddenly barrel down the empty lane towards the choke point and all hell breaks lose. Then everyone starts filling up the all empty lanes and chaos truimphs again.

4. Drivers who happily barrel down that empty lane, overtaking some 20 cars waiting patiently in queue and actually expect to be given way at the bottleneck, usually get their way. Cutting queue actually works in this country with no harmful side effects.

The truth is, merging lanes feature in every road system in the world. Only driver’s attitudes towards them differ. On Malaysian roads its every man for himself, everyone else be damned. The best part is watching how society actually rewards such behavior by giving ill-mannered drivers what they want. My conclusion? We get the traffic jams we deserve.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2008 10:31 am

    Hahah.. well written there. I agree on that.. Sometimes when i cut lanes, I would expect to be honked at but most of the time (about 90%) I dont!

    Wish all drivers happy driving. πŸ˜€

  2. June 12, 2008 10:50 am

    Phew! Thank God I don’t live in KL but the unfortunate thing is that this happens EVERYWHERE. We don’t have a lot of merging lanes where I’m from but I see it every single day. It’s the mentality of people and their need to get from one spot to another in a snap. I don’t understand why the urgency! And I SO agree on point no. 3!

  3. June 12, 2008 11:00 am

    Drivers in KL are generally a patient lot – giving way to queue jumpers without much fuss. Try doing that in Ipoh or Penang and see what happens.

  4. Damien permalink*
    June 12, 2008 8:32 pm

    @ndmervin, guess that confirms how generous-hearted Malaysians are.

    @dee, but I swore I saw one merging lane in Likas πŸ™‚

    @peter, yeah. I actually tried that in San Francisco once, merged into the highway while driving the wrong way (just disembarked a long flight from HK) and I got hell for it!

  5. LC Teh permalink
    June 13, 2008 8:59 am

    Exactly why it’s called bottle-neck. Sometimes you have to push a finger in the bottle to move back one pebble just so the one slightly in front can come out first…

    In Germany, I noticed, you have to ‘ask’ for permission to cut into a cue. Here, if you put up your indicator even to switch lanes, the guy behind quickly closes the gap. You have to try your luck to cut in behind him…

  6. Damien permalink*
    June 13, 2008 9:49 am

    I like the system in L.A. where a traffic light regulates how many cars can merge into the freeway at any time. It doesn’t solve all the problems but its a lot more orderly.

  7. tinytapir permalink
    June 16, 2008 1:37 pm

    Ha! the worst is when speeding drivers cut across 3 lanes to last minute push their way into an exit (when there wasn’t even a traffic jam) – and you KNOW they do it everyday.

    Once I refused to let someone in who did that – some bald f*cker in a tinted BMW – he got SO mad, he tail gated me, horned and then when he could he went into the inside lane, rolled down his window screamed at me, gave me the finger and then tried to run me off the road!

    So that’s why people probably don’t bother kicking up a fuss against road bullies.

  8. Damien permalink*
    June 16, 2008 8:32 pm

    Wow, that happened to you? Maybe you should have taken down his registration and reported it for intimidation.

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