When not 'seeing red' is a bad thing

PHOTO: When not 'seeing red' is a bad thing

Under Malaysian law, people who are colour-blind are barred from driving.

This is because they would pose a danger to other road users if they do not stop at intersections when the light is red.

Checks by the New Straits Times revealed that many motorists are colour-blind.

A 25-year-old finance executive, who wished to be known only as Rahman, said he was "hope less ly" colour-blind but had been driving for the past six years or so.

"Green and red appear as different shades of yellow to me, which sometimes can be a problem when I approach a traffic light in an area I am not familiar with," he said.

However, since driving a car has become a necessity, drivers with the colour deficiency have found ways to beat the system.

"The general rule is that the red light is always on top and the green is always at the bottom on a traffic light," Rahman said.

And he had been reading traffic lights based on the bulb's position rather than the colour.

"I have never been involved in an accident. I know my limitations and always go the extra mile to focus on driving ," he said.

Another colour-blind driver, who wanted to be referred to as Mohamad, said he, too, could not distinguish the colours on traffic lights.

"If I am the first car in the line waiting for the light to go 'green' and I am not sure, I just wait for the car behind me to honk." He said his condition has not been a problem, but admits that it can be scary when driving on unfamiliar roads.

"I sometimes cannot tell if the car in front is driving towards or away from me, since the red tail lights look yellowish. " He said this usually happened on trunk roads where the lines were not clearly defined.

The current syllabus for driving examinations, set by the Road Transport Department, includes a colour deficiency test.

A 22-year-old university g raduate, known only as Kok, said he initially gave up the idea of driving many years ago since he was colour-blind.

But he had beaten the colour-deficiency test and now has a driving licence.



"I memorised all the Ishihara Colour Test sheets, which contained the same questions driving examiners test students on," he said.

He then gave the answers without actually seeing what he claimed to have seen, and passed.

Most colour-blind drivers interviewed by the NST said they had managed to pass the colour perception test that way.

Others said they were lucky and had guessed the right answers.

They said being colour-blind was not a debilitating condition as none of them had been involved in an accident from misreading traffic light signals.

They said they did not feel irresponsible for driving despite not being al lowed to.

"How else can we get around? We cannot be taking public transport everywhere, or hire a driver," Kok said.

He said sometimes he felt he was a better driver than most normal visioned people.

"Unlike a lot of other drivers, I pay extra attention all the time when I drive. I do not take safety for granted as I already know my weakness, that is why I am extra careful." he said.