A couple of videos have popped up on social media in very close succession (having occurred on the 5th and 6th of September) of motorcyclists adopting a very dangerous and damaging new habit: kicking off side mirrors from cars that are stuck in traffic.
In both cases observed this week, one involving a 992 Porsche 911 Carrera S and the other a 2nd-generation Kia Cerato, the incident occurred when both cars were either attempting to change lanes or had apparently not left enough room for the motorcyclist to filter between them in the narrow margins between lanes (a practice called lane splitting or lane filtering).
The reaction from the online community has been pretty sympathetic to the driver, which cannot be expected to religiously maintain a consistent gap between the line markers and at no point was making it impossible for the motorcyclist to avoid a collision.
In both these cases, the blame falls squarely on the bikers, which were only seen due to the fact that a dashcam was fitted on the cars driving behind them. This was not an emergency reaction: the bikers had time to react, lift their feet up and take accurate aim.
Worse, they both knew that the drivers in both cars would not be able to catch them due to being stuck in slow-moving traffic. This is property damage inflicted from a standpoint of arrogance (not wanting to slow down) and irresponsibility borne of the knowledge that direct retribution will not easily reach them.
110% An Offence
Call it property damage, reckless endangerment, or vandalism. Whatever.
Even if accidentally swiping a wing mirror of a stationary car, perhaps by misjudging the available width to manoeuvre, the blame will still fall onto the motorcyclist. However, as often as this happens, the car’s owner is typically the one that forks out the repair cost.
This new move of kicking said side mirror off is far more deliberate and should be clearly ruled as an offence by the police. Again, the issue comes down to catching the perpetrator should they flee the scene - and they will.
Some online commenters attempted to legitimise the biker’s reckless act by claiming that the car did not leave them space, but if that’s to be believed, why did they not attempt to cushion the imminent impact on a less breakable part of the car?
What Will Shopee Do?
There are surely dozens more incidents like these besides those two mentioned that was luckily caught on camera, but in the case of the Shopee rider using his foot to knock off the passenger-side wing mirror from a Porsche 911 (an expensive repair, no doubt), what will his employer do about it?
We, nor any media outlet, have received a response from the company, typically meaning they’re hoping the matter will be forgotten eventually.
Unfortunately, the dashcam footage uploaded online doesn’t clearly show the perpetrator’s number plate, making his identification a little problematic. It kind of defeats the practical purpose of having such a device installed, right?
However, it’s possible that the original full-resolution video file is much denser with detail. Then again, it was recorded in rather dim lighting, and given the tiny sensors usually fitted to dashcams, the footage could be a grainy mess.
Lane-Splitting: 100% Legally Vague, Dangerous….Tolerated
But is that how it should be?
Fortunately for motorcyclists in Malaysia, the act of lane splitting is not prohibited by law, though nobody really argues whether or not that’s dangerous or necessarily a good idea.
Much of the literature describing offences in Malaysia’s available legal documents - the Road Transport Act 1987 and Road Traffic Ordinance 1958 - involve overtaking from the left side of the road, crossing double solid white lines, and preventing others from overtaking - all of which pertain to vehicles with four-wheel (or more) without detailing any concrete code of conduct or misconduct for motorcyclists.
Here, despite our often poor road conditions and relatively narrow lane widths even on highways, bikers like these who abuse this privilege/oversight certainly make it more and more likely that lane splitting could be a punishable offence in itself.
Responsible riders, or just ones concerned with their safety and that of their fellow road users, will make an effort to be extra observant of when and where they lane split, making sure to not filter through traffic too fast and leave enough room to suddenly brake should the need arise.
Particularly evident during rush hour traffic, we’ve all seen examples of an almost never-ending wall of motorcyclists that make safely switching lanes very difficult, which itself isn’t always possible given that a driver’s visibility could be easily impaired by a large vehicle, a large blind spot, or merely a curve in the road amplifying this disorientation.
Lane Splitting/Filtering. A Necessary Evil?
Let's say it is.
On one side of the coin, lane splitting is generally seen as the main reason why getting around on two wheels is quicker in heavy traffic. Not only that but having to trail behind a larger vehicle (not lane splitting), even an SUV, could be potentially dangerous as their forward line of sight is severely impaired.
That, coupled with the fact that a motorcycle typically needs a longer braking distance, rear-ending a car while refraining from overtaking between lane margins is a definite risk, and not one worth taking according to most Malaysian bikers, especially when moving at higher speeds.
Lane splitting presents them with a greater sense of security, but at the expense of those driving cars. A 2020 report by MIROS concluded that 96.5% of “crash relevant events” were observed when a motorcyclist “was moving either by filtering through lanes or splitting across different lanes” compared to when they stayed with the traffic flow in the lanes.
It also found that “lane-splitting or lane filtering movements on the non-highway roads
were 2.2 times more likely to result in a near-miss, compared to highways.”
For now, the real-world risk of lane splitting seems to easily eclipse any perceived fears of a collision occurring when riding within a lane, even if it happens to be behind a large vehicle.
Still, it could all be down to a biker’s skill and situational awareness. A seasoned rider might never be involved in a collision resulting from lane splitting/filtering when novice riders are far more prone to it. This, coupled with an irrational hurry, a disregard for safety best practices, and a willingness to damage/vandalise the property of others (such as decapitating a car’s side mirror off its perch), is akin to inviting an uproar loud enough to force change.
Lane splitting could be made illegal, and it’ll be the fault of Malaysia’s collective motorcyclists for failing to self-police before the actual police are tasked to interfere.
Get A F****** Dashcam
I mean, come on...
Besides bikers using their foot to deliberately cause damage to cars, who knows how many more incidences of such deplorable behaviour on the road would go unproven or dismissed if not for dashcams?
If you’ve read this far, their value is plain to see and should be regarded as a requirement for every car owner out there. Though quality between brands can vary greatly, merely having a basic one installed and running while you drive is leagues better than not having one.
Should you stumble upon something wacky, cross paths with a reckless motorcyclist and have your side mirrors lopped off while stuck in slow-moving traffic, or be involved in another form of unfortunate situation on the road, having video evidence can be invaluable in proving your innocence or someone else’s guilt to the authorities and seeking compensation from insurance providers.
Seriously, just get it. And if you do, urge anyone you know that hasn’t got one to do the same.
In the case of the Porsche 911 and Kia Cerato, we hope the individuals responsible for the damage to your car will be brought to justice.