What do drivers in England, New Zealand, Australia, India and Malaysia have in common? First of all, drivers in the above mentioned countries drive on the “left” hand side of the road. Therefore when a driver intends to overtake another vehicle, they overtake on the right.

Although one is ideally recommended to overtake on the right hand side, nevertheless, my driving instructor, who taught me driving way back in the early 1970’s, Mr. Tew Hock Lai, advised me that one can overtake on the “left”, when necessary.

Mr. Tew regularly told me, that a driver is allowed to overtake on the left, when the vehicle in front has stopped or has indicated his or her intention of turning to the right. In such a situation, Mr. Tew told me, driver is allowed to overtake on the left. But in doing so, extreme care and proper signals should be adopted.

However, all drivers should always try to follow the maxim of overtaking ideally on the “right”. To me, as an instructor, of more than 40 years of experience, to adhere to the belief that it is safer and less dangerous overtaking on the correct side, that is the right hand side is better.

To all drivers, I would like to advise, avoid overtaking on the left, if you possibly can. All that you possibly need is, be a little bit more patient, that’s all. Anyway, according to a popular saying, “Patience, infact, is a virtue.” The national language of our country, Bahasa Malaysia, reiterates “Kesabaran adalah separa iman.”

A reader of this blog very recently wrote in to this blog to request that an article be written on a few bad habits commonly adopted by Malaysian drivers of today. Amongst some of the mistakes or habits drivers of our country commonly commit must surely include “overtaking on the left”, “road hogging” on the fast lane of emergency, and believe it or not “crossing into chevrons”.

For those who are not too well versed with traffic regulations and rules, permit me to illustrate to you what “chevrons” are actually. Chevrons are linings on roads which separate two roads which meet. The V shaped white lines you find near traffic lights, while going up bridges and so forth, are actually intended for broken down vehicles, especially in busy areas, like Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Johore Bahru and Penang.

I still remember an incident I experienced while travelling out of Batang Kali town once, with a friend of mine, a young driver, aged around 27 years of age, who was unfortunately not too well versed with traffic rules and regulations. This young driver above, has in his haste, over taken another slow vehicle infront of him at a “chevron” area along the highway.

Unfortunately for us, a traffic officer, suddenly came out from amongst some bushes nearby, and flagged us down. My friend, who was driving then, turned around to me who was sitting next to him to inquire, “Have I done anything wrong?” As a lecturer for the “Highway Code” for new drivers, I immediately retorted, “Certainly, you have.”

To cut the long story short, no amount of appeals could prevent the good traffic officer issuing us a traffic summons that day. It was a costly lesson which we learnt that particular day.

I promised to the reader who requested that an article be penned on certain bad habits which many Malaysian drivers are guilty of, has finally led to this article being written. Therefore this article will specially emphasize upon 3 things, namely:-
1. Overtaking on the left
2. Road hogging especially along expressways
3. Is it right or wrong to cross into “chevron” areas

Before proceeding any further with this article, the Road Transport Ordinance 1987, which all drivers should be well versed with, spells out very clearly that, according Circular K. 5 RTR(LN) 166/59, a driver who overtakes on the left can be charged under section 119 (2) of the act. He or she can then be fined a sum of RM300 for it.

1) Overtaking on the left in the town areas.

As said much earlier, if you happen to be in a town area, whereby you are not travelling too fast, and should you encounter a vehicle or driver who has stopped infront and attempting to turn into the right lane, as a driver, you can adopt to stop behind the driver infront or choose to signal left, and slowly inch your way via the left lane, which is incidentally “overtaking on the left”. You have infact not committed an offence at all.

Therefore, overtaking on the left, in towns especially, albeit not encouraged at all, is an acceptable norm of driving, I would say. If such actions are adopted, I would deem it acceptable as long as it is done safely and carefully.

2) Overtaking on the left along highways going out of towns and major cities.

In Malaysia, highways or roads out of towns, follow a speed limit of 70 km/h. Should a driver be driving in such an area, under the speed normally followed is 70 km/h or even higher, to overtake on the left, I would say would be slightly more dangerous.

However, my opinion is that it can still be done. But, extreme care and precautions should be taken. Only if a driver is absolutely certain that it is safe to overtake on the left hand side, it is best that this manner of driving, that is overtaking on the left, should I feel not be adopted at all.

As they say, refrain from doing it rather than to regret an accident happening later. However, if you should decide to overtake on the left hand side, and you proceed on to cause an accident in doing so, section 119 (2) of the Road Transport Act 1987 or the Akta Pengangkutan Jalan (A.P.J) 1987 will go on to fault you for the offence and you will be slapped with a RM300 fine.

3) Overtaking along an expressway or highway.

Should overtaking on the left along expressway or highways be done or encouraged? Be it be known that along such highways as described above, the maximum speed limit there is 110 km/h. The left lane on such highways or expressways, such as the East-West Highway, the Karak Highway and the North-South Highway to Ipoh for instance, is actually the “road shoulder” or the “slow lane” itself.

At speed of over 110 km/h or more, overtaking via the left lane, is very dangerous and is never to be encouraged at all!

Furthermore, there might be stranded or broken down vehicles left on the slow lane, which is on the left of the expressway. At night especially, where visibility is extremely bad, accidents can likely happen.

So therefore, it is my personal opinion, that drivers, be it from our country, Malaysia, or for that matter anywhere else the world over, should refrain from overtaking on the left side of expressways and highways.

I would implore you as drivers, for your own good and safety of you and your family, not to overtake on the left! Stick to overtaking on the right, which is incidentally the correct way to overtake though. As to whether you choose to follow my advice or otherwise is actually solely up to you and you alone! Do think about it!