Psychoethic' values promote safe driving

KUALA LUMPUR: The festive season is upon us once again. As usual, we will be confronted with issues like road fatalities and appeals from the National Blood Bank for blood donors to come forward.

The rising accident and fatality rates are not only a cause for concern but it is a national issue that has to be addressed in an earnest and collective manner.

To cite data from the World Health Organisation for 2013, Malaysia had the third highest number of road fatalities globally. According to the statistics, Malaysia registered a death rate of about 23 per 100,000 population and an average of 14.4 deaths every day.

The average number of deaths registered during each festive season is 200.

Malaysians have to change their attitude and mentality because the main cause of road accidents in Malaysia is the driver's attitude. 

A study carried out by Green and Senders (2004) found that 57 per cent of accidents were caused by human error, 2.4 per cent by mechanical error or failure and 4.7 per cent, environmental factors.

Another study by Zhang, et al (2006) revealed that lack of good driving skills and experience was among the factors that contributed to the human error.

Another road accident cause is lack of concentration while driving. It is not uncommon to see drivers fiddling with their smartphones, sending text messages and even taking selfies, as well as eating, drinking, smoking or even reading and writing while they drive.

Even the billboards erected on the road shoulders can distract drivers and cause them to lose focus, thus increasing the accident risk.

Matters like age and gender have an influence on a driver's level of aggression which, in turn, influences the person's risk of getting involved in an accident. 

Young drivers are more prone to accidents as they are more likely to drive recklessly; their driving pattern is also affected by their hot-tempered nature, the driving lessons they were exposed to, their friends' influence and social problems.

The road conditions, as well as its surroundings, are also factors that contribute to accidents.

For example, if trees and shrubs planted alongside roads are not maintained properly, they can block the view of motorists and darken the area, thus increasing the risk of accidents.

In this context, the local authorities should monitor the situation and carry out the necessary maintenance work.

In discussing an effective way to change the behaviour of Malaysian drivers, this writer suggests zooming in on their psychological make-up and self-ethics.

By combining elements of these two aspects, they can cultivate lasting noble values that will encourage them to adopt a positive attitude at all times.

In discussions pertaining to 'psychoethics', the term is defined as one's innermost thoughts and feelings that are moulded by noble values and reflected through one's behaviour.

This treatment of combining the human psyche and ethics to nurture a sense of balance in the human being serves as a key pillar in changing human behaviour and in this context, the behaviour of road users.  

Some examples of 'psychoethic' values that will come in handy when driving are charitableness, positive outlook and acceptance. These are the three basic concepts that every road user in Malaysia should espouse.

Drivers with a positive mental attitude harbour good thoughts and always look at things from a positive angle. By being charitable, the drivers will not only exhibit good behaviour while driving but will also help others.

And, by practising the concept of acceptance, the drivers are willing to forgive other road users for their poor behaviour and attitude.

In this writer's opinion, the three 'psychoethic' concepts add up to produce drivers who are calm and collected.

Children should be encouraged to assimilate such values from pre-school onwards so that it will become part of their culture.

This noble effort will require three prime movers, namely educators, children and parents, as well as the full support of the authorities and local communities.

The assimilation of ethical values in the day-to-day lives of children will eventually create a generation of drivers who are positive minded and even dynamic.

If the physical and spiritual aspects of a driver strike a harmonious balance, his driving quality will not only be good but he will also practise safe driving habits.

For this writer, the driving experience tends to become calmer if the 'psychoethic' approach is given serious attention.

Meanwhile, other issues related to road safety must also be looked into. For example, the placing of clear warning signs at the appropriate places and availability of an efficient security assistance system would help to mitigate accident risks on our roads.

Hopefully, the 'psychoethic' approach, alongside existing measures, will serve as an alternative way to check Malaysian drivers' bad driving habits and the rising accident rate.– Bernama

*The writer, Dr Haslinda Abdullah, is the deputy dean (Research and Innovation) and lecturer in social psychology at Universiti Putra Malaysia's Faculty of Human Ecology.