Driving tips for those new to Penang

It is not every driver who could survive on the perilous roads of this tiny island. Driving on the roads of Penang means you will find the following situations:

1. A traffic jam caused by an accident on the other side of the road - meaning, there's been a minor accident on the opposite side but all the busybodies on this side of the road just had to slow down or even stop to stare at the wreckage.

2. There are no such things as signal lights - please bear in mind, drivers will turn wherever they want to, whenever they feel like, however they want to do it without any signals.

3. Motorcyclists owned the roads - they weave in and out of traffic and regardless of whether you use your signal or not, they will always cut in front of you or if you are turning right, they will squeeze past your right and if you are turning left, they will squeeze past your left to go straight. If you are going straight, they will cut in front of you to turn left or right. Otherwise, they ride in the middle of the road at 30kph and refused to let you pass.

4. Most of the drivers keep right - perhaps they are confused and thought they should be keeping right but you will find most Penang drivers taking the lane on the right at the speed of 40kph while the lane on the left is mostly empty. They also overtake cars using the left lane, not the right ones.

5. The emergency lanes and left lanes are for shortcuts and to cut queues - there is no such thing as waiting in line in any event of a traffic jam. That's what the emergency lanes are for, to use to cut into the long queue to get ahead faster.

6. Yellow means speed up while green means slow down - drivers will be driving at a crawl of 40kph when the light is green but the moment it turns yellow, they will step on the pedal and speed through the lights. This is the same with those numbered traffic lights, the higher the numbers (99, 80, 70...) means slow while the lower the number (5, 4, 3, 2...) means speed till you cross the lights.

7. Zebra crossing and pedestrian crossings are just there for decoration purposes - don't even think of using these to cross the road because drivers will speed past these without slowing down and if anyone dared to step foot on these, they will get blaring horns, some inappropriate hand signals and angry glares.

8. When an ambulance comes, it means you make way and then follow - drivers will make way by slowing down and some even stopping but the moment the ambulance passed them, they will speed up and follow its wake especially in times when traffic is heavy so that they could cut queue even more efficiently.

9. The whole of Penang island is a big huge parking lot - there is not a single space that drivers won't park their car as long as the curb is not too high and they could drive up it. It could be a single lane road, a busy junction or anywhere at all, as long as they think it is convenient to them, it is a good parking place.

10. They drive at 40kph during peak hours and 100kph during off peak hours - regardless of whether there is a traffic jam or not, if it is 8.45am on a weekday and you are in a hurry to reach the office, you will find some auntie or uncle going on a leisurely drive cruising down the road and hogging it at 35kph while at the same time refusing to let you overtake their cars. However, if it is 11pm at night where most roads are pitch black, you will find some youngsters taking to the roads thinking they are the next Schumachers.

So, there, 10 top tips to arm yourselves with if you ever drive up to Penang for a short trip.

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