If we want safer roads, we need to revamp our driving school syllabus

Adrian Chia · Oct 21, 2019 06:44 PM

I remember it was a few weeks after my 17th birthday. I sprint home after school, throw on a fresh change of clothes and wait eagerly for a white Perodua Kancil to show up at my doorstep.

I couldn’t hide my excitement as the Kancil plastered with large ‘L’ stickers appear. I’ve waited for this day my entire life. My first driving lesson.

My mind was running wild with ideas – high-speed run, tackling a slalom, emergency lane change. You could see why I was grinning from ear to ear.

Emergency Lane Change exercise

But reality is often disappointing. I was instructed to drive to the Road Transport Department (JPJ) test compound in Petaling Jaya and put through three exercises – slope test, parallel park and three-point turn. That’s it.

It took me 8 hours of instructor accompanied practical lesson (driving on-the-road), complete the driving course exercise and a final on the road assessment to obtain my probationary driving license.

Looking back, I sure had it easy. I’m surprised that is all you need to be on the road.

Almost a decade has passed and the requirements to obtain a driving license have gotten a little bit more stringent – a minimum 16 hours of practical lessons. The slope test, parallel park, three-point turn, and open road driving are as per before.

Passing the driving exam means that you can manoeuvre a car but does not necessarily mean you are able to drive.

Driving is a highly complex operation that requires seamless coordination between your sensory skills, spatial awareness and motor skills to safely navigate a car.

If the ministry’s idea of ‘revamping driving curriculum’ is to add more practical driving hours, the officers need to get a reality check. Malaysia ranks number 3 in Asia and ASEAN with the highest fatality rate from road accidents. In 2019, transport accidents were attributed to the fourth most common cause of death in Malaysia.

Malaysia has very demanding driving conditions – high speeds in harsh climate (scorching heat or heavy downpour). New drivers are severely ill-equipped to handle the challenges posed to them as well as lack the basic safety awareness on the road.

We desperately need a more holistic approach in our driving school curriculum that impart good driving etiquette as well as evasive driving skills such as emergency braking and lane change.

It’s about time we stop classifying these skillsets as ‘Advanced Driver Training Programme’ and integrate these potentially life-saving skills into our basic driving curriculum. Not just for the driver’s sake, but for all road users alike.