CAR ACCESSORIES : THE CUTEST HAZARDS
Malaysians just love accessorising. Themselves, their homes or even their pets – nothing seems to escape it. And if they’re a driver, their car can probably be a stand-in for the National Day parade.
Accessories are generally practical deco. They can make your car look better, while being useful at the same time. They can be as big as fluffy cushions, or as tiny as beads. But when you purchase these accessories, what was your first thought – is it its functions, or its cuteness or brands? The latter would obviously be the popular honest answer. Has it ever occurred to you that most of them are not properly mountable, and crowding your car with such accessories could potentially bring unforeseen harms?
For example, the soft cushions. Yes, they are meant to add more cosiness to our bottoms, but more often than not, they are made from slippery materials that will skid and throw the driver off the course. Another example could be the floor mat. While they are meant to protect the floor of a car from dust and dirt, a wrongly fitted floor mat can easily block the space between the pedals at your feet, setting up a death trap.
Scary, right? Well, those are just the functional ones. What about the small accessories that are meant for the cuteness? When a car moves, everything in it moves at the same speed. But when the car stops, everything else tends to keep moving. And with big enough momentum, all these tiny items could move at a bullet’s speed towards the driver and the passengers.
Now how do we keep our car stylish, without jeopardising our safety? It is quite simple. When buying your car accessories, make sure you buy from a proper outlet. These outlets know which materials are good and safe to go, while keeping the safety intact. Not only you’ll get yourself some cool accessories, but they’re guaranteed to be functional too.
Always equip yourself with knowledge on auto accessories, and how to decorate your automobiles properly. You will be surprised to know that there are so many ways to let your car still look all cute, while not driving yourself into a death parade.
LET THERE BE LIGHT – PART 2
Elevating visibility on roads
Now that you have known the basic four types of vehicle lights in our previous article*, let’s cover the remaining four. Can you guess what the remaining four are?
- Signal Lights | “Signal for what? They can see me coming ma!” (wrong!)
Found on the front, back and sides of cars (and for motorcycles, front and back), signals (a.k.a indicators / blinkers) when activated, are crucial to indicate to other road users that you are slowing down and about to make a turn.
- Brake Lights | “Alamak, brek saya rosak lagi kah?”
Brake lights indicate to drivers tailing you that you are slowing down or coming to a stop. These lights are only activated when the brakes are applied, and can be found on the side of your tail lights. There’s also a compulsory brake light indicator – the third brake light which is commonly located inside the vehicle by the back window of your vehicle (the location of the third brake light varies from vehicle to vehicle).
- Hazard Lights | “Turn on when heavy rain ma, right?” (wrong!)
Found on both the front and back of the vehicle, these lights emit a flashing signal that serve as warnings of distress. (More to be covered in the article below.)
- Interior Lights |“Oh, the one if we turn on at night, polis will catch ah?”
Commonly known as cabin lights, these lights are situated within the vehicle to help illuminate the cab for passengers and drivers in the dark, when needed to search for items or to check for directions.
(Tis’ true, leaving cabin lights on during a drive at night is a hazardous offence as the vision of oncoming vehicles can be distorted and cause accidents.)
With the focus of these four vehicle lights, let’s take a look at how we can further raise road safety and reduce harm.
- HAZARD LIGHTS - DON’T OVERUSE THEM!
The improper usage of hazard lights has been the culprit of many road mishaps. Contrary to popular belief, hazard lights should not be turned on during heavy downpours! It should only be used to notify road users around you that your car is stopped and is causing a temporary obstruction along the road as a result of a breakdown.
In other scenarios, hazard lights are also used to help warn others if there may be a hazard on the road up ahead; during a funeral procession; or when your car is being towed away.
- SIGNAL LIGHTS - USE IT! PERIOD.
Well, not much needs to be said about this except that it definitely needs to be used more often - especially in Malaysia! Indicating helps inform others of your position and your intended direction.
According to a technical paper published by SAE International in 2012, neglecting the use of indicators is one of the main causes of vehicle accidents with an estimated death toll of a whopping 2 million - surpassing distracted driving.
Suffice to say... indicate, before you regret it!
- THIRD BRAKE LIGHTS – GET IT CHECKED!
In Malaysia, one can be slapped with a hefty penalty of up to RM2,000 for having faulty third brake lights. But rules aside, third brake lights save lives.
A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US, found that third brake lights were able to minimise rear impacts by 4.3%. With distracted driving on the rise, a third brake light serves as an additional indicator to alert distracted drivers of a stopping vehicle ahead, and potentially help avoid irreversible harm.
DON’T FORGET… VEST UP
As for non-motorists (motorcyclists, cyclists, joggers etc.), a reflective vest could help save your life and avoid devastating accidents.
Typically made of reflective material and fluorescent colours, reflective vests or jackets are designed to increase visibility by alerting motorists of your presence in their field of vision, be it rain or shine, day or night.
The added bonus to this economical investment? It’s so lightweight, you’ll forget you even had it on, yet it plays a profoundly heavyweight in saving your life!
Alternatively, motorcyclists may also opt to don a High Visibility Windbreaker (HVWB) which has been proven to increase conspicuity during the day by 16.9%, in comparison to those without HVWB.
AND FINALLY… BUCK UP!
Visibility can only be guaranteed if you buck up on proper vehicle headlight care.
It’s important to have your vehicles serviced in a timely and regular manner to ensure all key components are in tip top working shape. Because without it, all purpose is defeated.
Now, if there’s any key takeaway from reading this article and this* is that increasing visibility on the road to reduce harm isn’t all that difficult! We just need to remain vigilant and diligent (and patient!) to make our roads a little safer for ourselves and the rest of the nation.
*to link the former article
LET THERE BE LIGHT – PART 1
Elevating visibility on roads
Lights? Of course we know it’s important! But do we really know how important it is, especially on roads? Simply put, it’s harm reducing and potentially lifesaving.
It's easy to take things for granted when we use it every day without thinking about it. For example your vehicle lights - when was the last time you actually thought about how important they are?
Some people underuse them, while others tend to misuse them. Either way, all these contribute to factors affecting visibility on roads, which lead to increased probable harm to both vehicle users and pedestrians alike.
For perspective, according to an in-depth accident study, 50% of daytime accidents occur as a result of drivers failing to see another road user (whether in time or at all). This boils down to the question of road visibility and how we can increase it to help save both our lives, and the lives of others.
Did you know?
According to the 2020 Edition of Jurnal Kejuruteraan, with approximately 6,000 road deaths reported annually in Malaysia, an estimated 60% of those fatalities were of motorcyclists, mostly as a result of poor visibility.
BUT FIRST... A QUICK PITSTOP
Let’s take stock of how many types of vehicle lights there are... and do you think you can name them all?
Fret not if you can’t! Here’s a quick refresher course!
There are eight basic types of vehicle lights but today, let’s cover four first:
- Headlights | “Abuden?”
We’re all familiar with this one. Located at the front end of the vehicle, these lights allow us to see the road in the dark, while at the same time alerting motorists ahead of our presence.
- Tail Lights | “Everyone also know la!”
Operating hand in hand with headlights, tail lights are also used in the dark, emitting red lights located at the rear end of the vehicle, to provide a sense of distance to motorists travelling behind you in the dark.
- Daytime Running Lights (DRL) | “Ha...apa tu?”
Many new vehicles today come equipped with DRL. These lights play a massive role in increasing daytime visibility of your vehicle to other road users. They are located mostly in the front end of the vehicle, and are generally kept on during the day (though users have the option to keep them off).
- Fog Lights | “Oh, we have that?”
As its name implies, these lights are used when driving through fog. Specially designed to prevent the refraction of light that will cause a distraction to the driver, fog lights are generally mounted on the lower body of the vehicle near the headlights, and are used when headlights are rendered ineffective in the blurring fog. In some countries, especially mostly European made cars, fog lights can also be found on the rear end of the vehicles.
NOW… LIGHT EM’ UP
Now that we’re up to speed with the different types of vehicle lights, let’s take a deeper look at how we can maximise conspicuity for you and your surrounding road users, to elevate road safety and reduce harm.
- HEADLIGHTS - KNOW WHICH IS WHICH!
While it may be a common feature used by drivers on the daily, many unknowingly interchangeably use the low beam and high beam functions, which can be dangerous for both you as a driver and the road users around you.
How so? Utilising high beam headlights can be blinding for oncoming vehicles, and should be used discerningly especially when driving through unlit stretches of roads, or when visibility is truly limited.
Meanwhile, low beam headlights / dipped headlights are ideal for normal nighttime driving but are also highly effective during the day, especially during adverse weather such as heavy downpours.
- DAYTIME RUNNING LIGHTS (DRL) - A HANDY COMPANION
Did you know in Malaysia, it is compulsory for motorcyclists to keep their DRL turned on during the day?
Though not made compulsory by authorities for motorists, it is very much encouraged to increase visibility significantly.
Vehicles with DRL offer a clearer identification on roads, as users are able to better gauge distances in comparison to vehicles without DRL. Research also indicates that the use of DRL helps with the timely peripheral perception of vehicles making conflicting movements.
So, it’s better to stay “lit” than it is to be overlooked!
With all that’s said on the importance of car lights, it’s also important to always stick with the original! In Malaysia, modifying vehicle lights is an illegal offence - and with good reason! Modified lights are designed to stand out with some varying in colour and others brighter than they should be - posing a distraction and risk for other road users.
The importance of tyres in a vehicle cannot be over emphasized, as they are the only thing that separate the vehicle body and the road, allowing it to stop, start and manoeuvre safely. Every competent driver knows this, yet numbers of car accidents related to problematic tyres keep increasing each year. Most cases involved tyres exploding while moving at top speed, causing the driver to oversteer or lose control, often resulting in profoundly serious or even fatal accidents.
How do we reduce the harms caused by such unwanted outcomes? Simple – check your tyres frequently. See if the tread is worn beyond the recommended tread depth levels, the sidewall is damaged, any hole in the tread that is bigger than 6 mm in diameter, or if the bead is damaged or deformed. If any of this checks out, you might want to consider replacing it, which brings us to an even trickier part.
When buying a new tyre, we tend to look at the brands and designs rather than the more important aspect of it – the expiry date. Yes, tyres do have expiry dates, as they are made of rubber, and the quality of rubber depreciates with time as it ages. If properly stored in cool places, shielded from direct sunlight, away from chemicals and electric generators, newly manufactured tyres can last up to 10 years. However, we cannot guarantee that all shops will give their tyres such TLC. That is why the Automobile Association of Malaysia (AAM) Chairman, Tunku Datuk Mudzaffar Tunku Mustapha advises against buying tyres that are over two years old.
So how do we determine the expiry date of a tyre? On the sidewalls of the tyre, there is a stamp known as the DOT (Department of Transportation) code that includes a four-digit figure, which some of us may have taken for granted. The last two digit shows its year of manufacture, while the first two digit represents which week of that year it was made. For example, the picture shows “1920”, which means the 19th week of the year 2020, somewhere around mid-May last year, which is still acceptable for purchase. If the last two digits show something lower than 19, you might want to ask for a newer tyre.
All in all, remember to check your tyres regularly. If they need replacing, do check the new tyres' manufacturing dates before purchasing. It might seem costly, but not as costly as losing your life.
Carbon Monoxide - The Silent Killer?
19th September 2020 - Four college girls were found unconscious in a parked car, with the engine running. Two were pronounced dead at the scene, one dead whilst in treatment at the hospital, while the sole survivor took ten days to regain consciousness. Upon further investigation, all of them suffered from multiple organ failures due to carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a leakage from the car’s exhaust pipes.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is colourless, tasteless, and odourless. A quick sniff – even a ridiculously small amount of it but in less than an hour, it could have replaced the oxygen in your blood, causing you to eventually lose consciousness and crash. In short, CO is a silent killer. Who would’ve thought.. a simple nap in the car could take lives?
Now, how do we prevent such tragedies from happening again? First, ensure that your car is in tip top condition. Ensure that air circulation is proper in the vehicle. Secondly, remember there was a point in time when we were advised to “warm up your car’s engine for it to last longer”? Forget that – as being stationary for a long time will inevitably release carbons into the air, allowing for inhalation. Plus, studies have shown that it’ll just damage the modern car’s engine a lot quicker.
Thirdly, avoid sleeping in your car with the engine running at all costs, no matter if your windows are open or shut. If you really need to sleep in your car, just turn your engine off. Last but not least, have you ever noticed this button in your car (attach air recirculation icon)? Ensure this is turned ON when you’re driving but OFF when you’re stationary.
Speaking of carbon monoxide, it also exists in any incomplete combustion tool that we use daily, from your kitchen stove, or even cigarette. Therefore, it is important to ensure good air circulation in your kitchen and homes, and always keep the windows open when cooking. As for cigarettes, you might want to consider looking for an alternative smoking devices like the e-cigarettes or the heated tobacco products that do not involve any burning but just heating, or just stop smoking altogether.