How not to have a car crash.
Yesterday, I was in a car crash. More precisely, my wife and I, and the cousin of a friend were in a car crash.
We were driving along, in Malaysia's typically heavy rain. The view ahead was foreshortened by the rain. The road beneath us was slick with far too much water. Suddenly, the oddest of sights leapt out at us, from not too far ahead: a car parked in the road. Really, it wasn't going anywhere at all - just not moving.
The driver slammed on the breaks, but the car just floated over the wet road, not slowing nearly as much or as fast as we would like. It seemed inevitable that we would strike the car. I could feel the world slowing down, even as we sped towards the car. Then we struck, a jarring blow, which flung my head forward sharply, somewhat dizzily. Then we were at a standstill.
Oddly, very, very oddly, my wife and I noticed that there were no cars immediately in front of the car we had struck: why, then, had it stopped at all, in the first place?
"Is everyone OK?" I found myself asking, a little distantly from myself, since, as anyone would tell you, who has been in a sudden crash, it is a little disorienting.
No-one answered. I think they were both too busy being shocked. I looked at them, though, and could see no outward sign of injury.
Our driver got out of the car, on autopilot as it were, knowing she had to.
Another odd thing struck me, then. The driver of the other car was utterly unconcerned. He was not angry. He was not upset. He was not even seemingly surprised. He did say something inexplicable however: "It is your fault...", our driver just nodded, not really knowing quite where she was, "It is your fault: I had to stop to avoid hitting the cars in front...I stopped in time, you didn't."
Well, from where we sat, we could not see any cars that had been in front of him. He appeared to have stopped in the middle of the road, without any provocation at all.
He came over to the car, when our driver returned to the front seat.
"Let us settle this now, in cash." He said, rather bizarrely. You see, the people who normally want to settle in cash, out of the official procedures, are the GUILTY ones.
Our driver just nodded ascent, but didn't reach for her wallet. I think she was too stunned to fully take in what he was saying.
"Give him your contact details." my wife suggested.
Rather jovially I thought, for a man whose car had just been in an accident, he exchanged contact details - though he only gave a telephone number for himself, and no address.
"I have got to go now.", he said. "Make sure you have switched your engine off."
Our driver had tried to call for a tow truck, but found out that her AAM membership had expired. They refused to come.
"Do you have any tow truck contacts?" my wife asked him.
"I do...but they are not very reliable."
Then he left. He got in his car - which was relatively undamaged - drove off.
Our car, on the other hand, seemed to have a broken radiator, since it was steaming. We sat still.
Meanwhile we tried making calls to garages.
In a couple of minutes, a car pulled in front of us and a chubby young man, who was unaccountably happy, got out and gave us his card. Trustingly, I thought, our driver had opened the door for him, to receive his card.
He urged us to call his garage and get a tow truck to come.
We explained that we had our own company in mind. Basically, we were hinting that he should go away. He didn't take the hint. He went back to his car and got on his phone, talking away and looking at the damage on the car all the while.
Soon, another car pulled behind us and two men got out. They introduced themselves to the first man and talked for awhile. Then one of them came over and gave us his card and urged us to call for a tow truck. We explained that we had our company - but again they wouldn't listen.
Over the next quarter of an hour ELEVEN different men arrived, (though two left)offering their services, or more, rather, insisting on them. We were completely blocked in, with cars and motorcycles in front and behind us. They hung around in a large group of nine in front of our car, talking together. They clearly all knew each other. It was obvious that they often did this...whatever it is that they were doing.
We just wanted them to go away.
Periodically, one of them would come over and thrust a card at us. One was a bit pissed when our driver would no longer open the door, but opened the window, instead. "Why won't you open the door, huh?" (The previous time he had thrust the door open further with the back of his hand. That had been noted. Hence, the closed door this time.)
Basically, our car crash had attracted a large gang of men all of whom looked on the dodgy side of the law.
Finally, a man pulled up who looked like a policeman.
"The police!", said Syahidah.
"No.", mourned our driver, "It is just the people who look after this road."
It was a Litrak staff member.
At first, rather comically, he said: "Why are you blocking the road? You are causing a traffic jam."
"We are not the ones causing a jam. They are." said our driver, pointing forward at the gang ahead. "We have been in an accident and the car can't move. Ask them to go away."
He didn't apologize. However, he went off to speak to the men.
They knew how to deal with him. They shook his hand and beamed at him in a friendly manner. They listened to his urgings to go away - and all but two, completely ignored him. The two that drove off, left seven men and several vehicles surrounding us.
Finally, our tow truck arrived - along with at the same time, two brothers of our driver. Finally, we had some numbers on our side.
Then there began a bit of a heated discussion between the gang and the tow truck. The gang said they wouldn't move and give the tow truck access to our car, unless the tow truck company agreed to pay THOUSANDS of ringgits "compensation" to them, for being "first on the scene".
I don't know what the tow truck man said to them, but shortly thereafter the ringleader - older, darker of skin, and greyer of hair, than the rest, signalled that they should all leave. Then, all of a sudden, they were gone.
Apparently, they had told the tow truck man that they were there first, so he can't do the job, because they had first rights to it. However, what they neglected to mention is that we NEVER called them and that they were there AGAINST OUR WILL having been repeatedly told to leave.
That was the beginning of a long night in the police station for the driver (which we began but had to leave).
The whole episode is highly disturbing. It made it clear to us that the worst part about a car crash in Malaysia, is NOT the crash - but the vultures who will turn up afterwards. The rapid appearance of these vultures also made me wonder whether the whole thing had been a set up. They arrived on the scene suspiciously fast, despite not being called by us. Furthermore, the car we had struck seemed to have stopped in the middle of the road for no reason. It may well be that they had seen the Mercedes Benz our friend was driving as attractive bounty to be harvested.
Malaysia really needs to do something about the level of crime and dishonesty encountered in so many segments of society. There are so many predators here. Even a car crash may not be what it seems - and, in fact, turns into a magnet for many a low-life to make a buck out of.
The taxi driver on the way home told us something else to be aware of. He agreed that car crashes were often staged in Malaysia so that garages could make money out of them. He even said that sometimes they will SPILL OIL ON THE ROADS, to CAUSE CRASHES, so that they can then turn up and make money out of the situation. I am left to wonder how many injuries and deaths are caused by the garages trying to drum up business. It is an horrific practice.
Urgent attention needs to be paid to these garages. Should anyone ever complain of suspecting that they have been set up, a full investigation should take place. Should it transpire that the garage has, indeed, set up a crash, then ALL THE STAFF at the garage should receive a VERY LONG prison sentence. They are, after all, placing lives at risk, to make money.
The police understood the situation but advised that it would be difficult to prove the situation. Basically, the whole thing had been structured to make our friend look like she was at fault - even if she wasn't. So, it looks like she will have to pay a fine on top of everything else.
The incident has taught us greater caution over the roads here, in Malaysia. There are people out there who profit from putting others in danger. The only problem now, is what to do about them? A start would be a very sturdy car indeed - so that is what we will have to arrange, when it comes time for us to sort out one for ourselves here. Presently, we use taxis (which are far from sturdy). Then again, a taxi is unlikely to be an active target.
By the way, none of us was noticeably hurt, though we were a little shaken. That, I suppose, is thanks to the sturdy construction of our friends in Germany.
Thank you Mercedes Benz.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:
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