If you are wondering why the roads everywhere are choked with cars lately, that is because there are now more cars than people in the country.

Yes, you read that right. According to road safety expert Professor Dr Kulanthayan K.C Mani of Universiti Putra Malaysia, there were 33.3 million registered vehicles nationwide as of last year - way more than the nation's 32.6 million human population.

Out of the 33.3 million registered vehicles, about 47.3 per cent were cars, 46.6 per cent were motorcycles, while 4.7 per cent were goods vehicles. The remaining were buses, taxis, self-drive car rentals and others, reported the New Straits Times (NST).

"The vehicle population in 2019 was 31.2 million. Subsequently, it increased by one million every year. In 2021, it was registered at 33.3 million.

"For the first time ever, in 2021, the trend of vehicle population outpaced the human population. Over all these years, it was always the reverse," he was quoted telling the daily, further warning that if the trend continued, Malaysians will face even more horrendous traffic congestion.

Kulanthayan noted that the traffic conditions have worsened after the COVID-19 pandemic, due to several reasons.

First is the government's exemption of sales and services tax for vehicle purchases in June 2020 as part of the National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) stimulus package, which enticed more people to buy cars they don't actually need.

Secondly, many people have also resorted to take on several jobs to make ends meet, including as p-hailing (food delivery) and e-hailing drivers, which translates into more vehicles on the road.

Thirdly, many school bus operations had also shuttered down during the pandemic, forcing parents to personally send their children to schools, Kulanthayan added.

To overcome the problem, Kulanthayan who is also the chairman of the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety, urged the government to stop building more highways, or adding more lanes to existing ones.

Instead, the government should provide better public transportation, especially rail-based ones, he added.

"Rail-based public transportation has no congestion, no issues with punctuality, relieves people of the stress of driving and encourages productivity during the commute.

"[Besides] People need to understand that road-based public transportation like buses is the safest mode of transport on the road. Our crash statistics, not just last year, but dating back to three decades, showed that the least contributor of fatalities is the bus," he said.

According to Kulanthayan, industries should also work together with the government and the people to address the congestion issue.

These include by providing transport for their employees, or by giving travel pass subsidies or incentives for taking public transport.

Employers can also encourage their workers to carpool to work, and weigh in the reintroduction of the Work From Home (WFH) policy on a rotational basis, he stressed.

As for individuals, motorists should plan their journey ahead before heading to the roads, he added. These include considering taking public transportation to their destination, or walking to a place within a reasonable distance, Kulanthayan noted.

Source: NST
Photo source: Malay Mail