In many nations, industrial and economic growth is the driving factor of urban migration. The promise of better education and economic opportunities has lured many people away from the comforts of their small town surroundings to brave the hustle and bustle of the big cities.

The congested Klang Valley region accounts for nearly a quarter of Malaysia’s 30 million estimated population. Many of the seven odd million people who reside in the Klang Valley, however, do not originate from this region and the festive seasons are when these people collectively hit the roads to get back to their loved ones still in their hometowns.

As families make their way home for their reunions, a disproportionately high number of vehicles end up traveling on our road system at the same time. Many of these journeys do not conclude with happy endings, however, as road traffic accidents similarly spike during these periods, despite toughened traffic enforcement from the police.

Having a car that is well-maintained and well-stocked in safety features is helpful in mitigating your risks on the road. Having sufficient airbags in your vehicle boosts your chances of surviving a severe accident should you unfortunately get into one, whilst active safety features such as anti-lock braking system (ABS) and Electronic Stabilization Programme (ESP) improves your chances of avoiding one altogether.

Most accidents are actually attributable to human error, however, and thus preventable. Rather than relying on the police to clean up the mess of one accident after another, we as drivers can take initiatives to stop accidents before they happen – as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure!

Everyone’s prospects of a happy festive reunion get a little better if we collectively tweak our attitudes behind the wheel – throttle down the ego, rev up the courtesy, and embrace a little bit more communal spirit with each other. When driving, take pro-active measures to minimize your chances of getting into an accident. Stay focused and be alert for potential hazards; be mindful of other drivers in your vicinity.

Getting behind the wheel with the right mind-set is important, and a crucial start is to ensure all passengers are buckled up. Young ones must be strapped into child safety seats, preferably attached to ISOFIX anchors, standard feature for all Volkswagen models sold in Malaysia. New-borns, in particular, must be rear-facing in order to minimize the impact of whiplash in a collision or sudden manoeuvres.

Reliable child seat brands, imported and local, offer a variety of child seats to suit a wide range of budgets; some car dealerships also offer child seats as cost optional accessories. Child seats do have expiry dates, however, due to degradation of their plastic components. It is advisable to keep a child seat in use for no longer than six or seven years.

Travelling with kids can be fun and stressful at the same time. When they become bored over the long journey, they cease being bundles of joy and start to be a real handful. Children throwing tantrums can trouble even the most experienced parents. It may be useful to have some items of distraction at your disposal to alleviate their boredom; have some of their favourite toys, games, or snacks handy.

Adults are perhaps less likely to throw tantrums, but they are no less susceptible to boredom and fatigue. Snacks can be useful distractions from boredom, whilst some tea or coffee at rest stops can help keep fatigue at bay. Malaysia’s comprehensive network of highways has some very clean and well-equipped rest stops spaced at regular intervals – take advantage of them. The ‘Rest Assist’ drowsiness detection system fitted in certain Volkswagen models such as the Tiguan and Passat is a useful feature to remind tired drivers it’s time to take a break.

Folks with adventurous spirits can even consider making stops at some of our nation’s most iconic makan places along the way. Famous examples include Bidor’s duck thigh noodles, Malacca’s coconut shake, and Bentong’s homemade ice cream. Besides rejuvenating you for the journey ahead, these little adventures serve to add and enrich the experiences of your life. Be sure to have your camera phone handy.

To make time for these stops along the way, it is best to hit the road as early as possible. Besides giving yourself some leeway with timing, an early start helps you avoid the worst of the congestion, in turn helping you save precious amounts of time, fuel, and, not to mention, stress. Our highway authorities regularly blast out travel advisories to motorists through various mass and social media channels – stay tuned to these announcements and plan your journey accordingly.

Another benefit of starting early is that you get to avoid or reduce driving under the scorching Malaysian sun, which is hottest and most intense in the afternoon. This in turn reduces your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays which we all know are bad news for your health. Strong sun light also contributes to fatigue; if you have to drive under the afternoon sun, apply sun screen with adequate levels of SPF. Wear polarized sunglasses to keep the glare out and reduce your body’s subconscious yet tiring reaction to squint your eyes.

Road safety is contingent upon many factors, although the only ones really within our own control are the condition of our vehicles and our attitudes whilst driving them. It is therefore important that before setting off on your journey to ensure not only that your vehicle is in good working order but also that you are in the right frame of mind to drive it. Practice good driving habits and carry a positive spirit on the road.

Festive periods are meant to be joyful times for the family. The mood of your journey home sets the tone for your celebrations. It pays to prepare well to ensure a smooth trip and a happy reunion with your loved ones.

Happy Chinese New Year and be safe on the road at all times! This message was brought to you by Volkswagen.