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Gambling lives away at the toll plaza

By Sarimah Othman

WITH  more toll plazas today providing only electronic payment options, more Malaysians have started becoming Touch ”n Go and SmartTAG users.

Despite this, toll plazas are still a point of long queues and traffic jams, especially during rush hour, the holidays and festive seasons.

The left most lanes are usually for cash payment, if the option is made available, or for reloading Touch ”n Go cards. The right most lanes are typically for SmartTAG users while the middle ones are usually for Touch ”n Go users.

During peak hours, toll plazas can be quite a dangerous place. Vehicles can jump queues or switch lanes at the last minute.

Sometimes, right after they have paid the toll fare, those in the SmartTAG lanes would swerve sharply to the left to either go to the petrol station or convenience store located by the road just after the toll plaza.

Do they not think about how dangerous that is for themselves and other road users? I”m inclined to wonder whether it was a last minute decision on their part or if they had planned it all along.

If they had intended to stop by for petrol from the beginning, do they not realise that the SmartTAG device uses the Touch ”n Go card? Therefore, they could have gone through any of the lanes closer to the left side of the road .

Yet they chose to go through the right most lanes. They would then put on their hazard lights or wave wildly to other drivers to ask them to give way as they make their way across all the lanes to get to the left, disrupting the traffic flow. Some would take their time to cross to the other side, making it difficult for other vehicles to gauge where they were trying to go, and sometimes even causing accidents. I”ve witnessed this myself several times.

Drivers on the SmartTAG lanes who choose to bear sharply to the left after paying the toll need to realise that unsuspecting drivers on the other lanes may accelerate right after the toll plaza and run into their vehicles.

If the untoward happens, this would cause a jam and massive difficulty to other road users.

The SmartTAG device was meant to ease traffic flow as drivers only need to drive through the toll instead of having to stop to wind down their window and press their card against a reader, like Touch ”n Go users do.

However, if they so badly needed to use the restroom or fill up at the petrol station, it would only be a minor inconvenience that they have to bear when using the Touch ”n Go lanes.

The Touch ”n Go service has been made available in the country since 20 years ago, in March 1997 while SmartTAG services were introduced in March 1999.

One would have thought that by now, road users would have been wiser on the use of various amenities made available at toll plazas.

By noon on April 26 this year, PLUS Malaysia Berhad would be fully implementing the electronic payment systems at all of its toll plazas.

The exercise involves 94 toll plazas from the one in Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah to Johor Bahru  which covers 77 at the North-South Expressway, the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) and Butterworth-Kulim Expressway (BKE); nine at the North-South Expressway Central Link  (ELITE); three at the  Malaysian-Singapore Second Link and two each at the Seremban- Port Dickson and Federal Highway Route 2 and one on the Penang Bridge.

Soon, cash transactions would not longer be accepted. Whether they like it or not, drivers would have to either use their PLUSMiles or Touch ”n Go card or SmartTAG device and must adjust their journeys accordingly.

It cannot be denied that electronic transactions at toll plazas are much faster and convenient than cash payment. However, if drivers continue to act selfishly on the road, purposely go into the wrong lanes and abuse the amenities, there would continue to be road congestion at toll plazas.

SmartTAG and Touch ”n Go lanes are capable of handling a capacity of 1,000 and 600 transactions respectively, every hour. However, the poor attitude of road users may greatly reduce the figure.

While many are quick to blame the management of toll collection companies for inconveniences on the road, they must not forget that their attitude as road users greatly matter as well.

*The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Times (TMT).

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