In Malaysia, the rising number of road accident fatalities has been a major cause of concern to the authorities and the public. From 1997 to 2002, there were more than 5,000 deaths on the road, which translated to 49 deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles. This tripled the rate in most developing countries. Concerned about the rising road accidents and fatalities, highway concessionaires have been working overtime to maintain and improve the conditions of highways to ensure that the highest standards of safety are met.
For example, using modern technology, highway concessionaires set out to increase safety measures by installing upgraded and strengthened guardrails. Accident reports were studied to identify accident-prone areas and measures were taken to enhance the safety of those areas. In cases where road surfaces became slippery due to rain, condition was improved by using porous asphalt or micro surfacing that helped to improve drainage of surface run-off.
Following the Malaysian Highway Authority’s (MHA) requirements, highway concessionaires monitor the condition of highway pavements by regularly reporting on “road roughness.” Every three years, they are also obliged to implement the Pavement Condition Assessments (PCAs), taking core samples from the roads for testing in a laboratory. If the condition of the pavement shows that it has reached 70 per cent of its service life, a new pavement has to be laid by the toll concessionaires.
Other safety measure introduced was the installation of crash cushions. For example, by the end of 2010, 371 crash cushions had been installed at strategic locations along the nation’s highways at the cost of RM35 million.
Recognising that drivers on long journeys are often prone to fatigue, Rest and Recreation Areas (R&R) have been built at frequent intervals throughout the highways. This allows the drivers to stop for a break to avoid fatigue that can often lead to highway accidents. With more R&R built, it has also reduced the dangerous practice of lorry drivers parking their vehicles on the emergency lane for a nap, or a rest.
Continuous measures undertaken by highway operators to improve the safety standards along the highways have been a success. For instance, drivers on the North – South Expressway (NSE) have a lower risk of accidents compared to motorists on the normal roads as the NSE has wider lanes and fewer bends. This could also be translated into an estimated savings in accident costs of RM0.044 per km.
The Eastern Dispersal Link Expressway (EDL) is also the first expressway built with a two-metre shoulder at elevated section, a wider path introduced by MHA. The wide shoulders ensure a smoother traffic flow while reducing accidents in the event of any untoward incident. Highly sensitive Traffic Surveillance and Control System (TCCS) are also installed along the EDL and the data being fed to the Traffic Information System helps to notify the public of traffic congestions and updates road users of current information. Also installed are Emergency Telephone network along the highway. EDL has also installed the latest surveillance and traffic information system to facilitate and ensure a secure and safe journey, such as the state-of-the-art Traffic Surveillance and Control System with the first journey time estimation system using Automatic Number Plate Recognition System (ANPR) and Automatic Video-based Vehicle Detection System (AVDS).
Maju Expressway (MEX) has installed a host of safety features on the expressway including a state-of-the-art TCSS, which has a direct link to local emergency authorities to facilitate immediate assistance in the event of an emergency. It can also supply the media with current status of traffic on MEX for immediate dissemination to the public. Certain sections of MEX have been reinforced with additional micro surfacing to enhance vehicle road adhesion.
Lebuhraya SPRINT (Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat) also has many safety features, such as pedestrian bridge located near residential and business complexes areas, motorcycle lane on certain areas to prevent accidents, speed indicator display on Kerinchi Link to alert drivers on their speed limit and transverse bar on road surface to reduce speed. For SPRINT, its highway runs through developed townships, and as such it does not have any emergency telephone booths along its routes. Nevertheless, the highway Helpline signboard is displayed at toll tickets, VMSes and signboards if users require help.
Apart from rubber strip, signage, hazard light and yellow transverse bars which are all part of its safety features, Lebuhraya SMART (SMART) has installed 35 Emergency Telephone booths, which can be found at every 250 metres of its highway.
Lebuhraya Lingkaran Luar Butterworth (LLB) has the lowest accident rate among all the highways. Many safety features such as pedestrian bridges and footpath nearby to residential areas and school have been installed along LLB. The highway is also equipped with 18 Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV), 18 Emergency Telephone, eight Variable Message System (VMS) and guardrails.
Lebuhraya Koridor Guthrie (GCE) is equipped with a TCSS and a 24-hour patrol team to ensure a safe and smooth journey for its motorists. The TCSS comprises of a CCTV, VMS placed at strategic locations along the highway, Emergency Telephone at two kilometre intervals and a fibre optic backbone to provide video, date and voice transmission facilities to link field equipment with the central room for monitoring purposes.
Lebuhraya KL – Karak (KLK) has also invested heavily on safety features such as Blinking Chevron, LED Lighting, Solar Lighting, Rumble Strip, Micro Surfacing and Anti-Glare. For Lebuhraya Pantai Timur Fasa 1 (LPT1) installation of safety measures such as Blinking Chevron and Micro Surfacing has also been implemented.