Hitting the highways and joining the balik kampung exodus
THE excitement of going back to our hometowns to celebrate the festivals is captured best in 80s singer Sudirman’s catchy song Balik Kampung. He sang that in his eagerness and anticipation of reuniting with loved ones, back then, he didn’t feel the tediousness of a long journey home, perjalanan jauh tak ku rasa.
Since then, the highways have linked the country and certainly had cut down the travelling time, until the time comes for the balik kampung exodus when Klang Valley empties out and everyone hits the road.
Those celebrating the festive seasons want to do so with loved ones back in their hometowns, and those not celebrating may want to take advantage of the long holidays for some Cuti-cuti Malaysia.
With a record 11 long weekends in 2015, more Malaysians are expected to be travelling on the highways.
Plan your journey
The key to having a smooth, stress-free and safe trip home is to plan your journey. If possible, try to avoid travelling on peak days such on the festive eve, or the Sunday before school re-opens. Take additional day leaves if you can, and go home earlier or return to the city later than the peak times.
But if that is not possible, then refer to highway concessionaires’ “Travel Time Advisory” or TTA – a schedule to identify the peak and off-peak period to travel on the highway. This initiative was introduced by PLUS back in the 2007 in conjunction with Hari Raya celebrations – a list of recommended travel times was announced to the public to help them plan their journey.
The TTA is based on the number of cars travelling from Klang valley to major destinations in the northern and southern region during peak season. By researching and analysing this data, the concessionaire is able to provide a timetable advising road users on the most optimum travelling time.
By providing up-to-date information to the public, the initiative has proven to be effective in distributing traffic during the peak period. Over the years, up to 60% of PLUS highway users benefited by following this schedule.
For drivers travelling in the wee hours of the night, be mindful that driving in the dark, even on lit highways, is more strenuous on the eyes and body. So, be sure that you are well-rested and fit for night driving.
If possible, share driving responsibility with another person. By taking turns to drive, you will have the chance to rest and you can also keep each other company.
You must of course also make sure that your car is in tip top condition. It’s a good idea to service your car and do a thorough inspection before the journey. Also, check the tire pressure, make sure all fluids are at their proper levels and you have a full tank of petrol.
Don’t wait for the petrol gauge to start blinking at E before you refuel. Know where the petrol stations are on your route. But even though there are many petrol stations along the way, there may be long queues with the high volume of vehicles on the highways.
Load up on your Touch ‘n Go cards and use SmartTAG as it will cut down your queuing time at the toll gates.
Be prepared for longer than usual travelling times. Stock up on some snacks and water to ward off hunger pangs. If you are a typical Malaysian, chances are you’d have some asam, pickled fruits, or chew a gum to keep your taste buds happy and your brains alert.
If you are travelling with children, occupy them with toys or gadgets to keep them entertained. If you are travelling with the elderly and children, make time to stop at the rest areas for toilet breaks and to stretch their legs. You will also appreciate having a breather from the long journey.
Keep calm and think of your loved ones
In our eagerness to reach our destination or in heavy traffic, we may become impatient behind the wheels. As such, keep calm, apply defensive driving and adhere to road regulations and traffic signages. After all, during every festive season, the authorities will conduct safety campaigns to create awareness and remind the road users on the importance of reducing number of road accidents. So, when driving, think of your loved ones and drive safely.
Observe and keep to the speed limit, and follow the correct lanes when you are driving on the highways. Do not hog the right lane if you are driving too slowly.
Give way to aggressive drivers and do not provoke them in any way. If you have made a mistake, acknowledge it by making a gesture such as raising your hand in apology.
Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Do not tailgate or drive too close to the car in front.
Remember that it’s better to arrive late than not at all.
At the rest area
Even in the excitement of the upcoming celebrations, don’t let your guard down. Do not be careless especially in the large crowded area.
When stopping at the rest area, make sure your car is safely locked before going for your meals or toilet breaks. Take your valuables with you. Make sure you have nothing visible that might tempt people to break into your car, such as a handbag or an iPad.
Keep an eye on the children. With more vehicles around, you don’t want them dashing about and risk being hit. You also do not want to lose them in the crowd, so hold on to the little ones.
When travelling at night, be all the more alert. Don’t stop at deserted or dark spots to answer nature’s call. Hold on and stop only at well-lit rest areas along the highway.
Lastly, enjoy travelling with your family. Keep the mood and spirits up in your vehicle to ensure a smooth and pleasant journey.