Published: 08 July 2019
1. Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank the members for speaking in support of the Bill. While members recognised the importance of enforcement measures to deter irresponsible driving, many also highlighted the need to go beyond enforcement and take a wider approach to ensuring road safety, to make use of other levers, such as education and engagement. Mr Deputy Speaker, we fully agree with these views.
2. I will respond to questions on our regulatory regime, as well as our general approach to road safety. Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mrs Josephine Teo will then address questions on criminal offences, and touch on emerging road traffic issues.
Bill Specific Amendments
3. First, on our amendments to tighten the regulatory regime against irresponsible driving. On the streamlined licence suspension and revocation process, Mdm Rahayu Mahzam asked whether the Deputy Commissioner of Police, or DCP, may have the discretion to extend the notice period before suspension and revocation. The DCP can extend the notice period for suspension, but only for the suspended motorist to attend the DIPS Retraining Course. This is because in this case the motorist is taking steps to address his errant behaviour. Thus, where a licensee has indicated to TP that he intends to take the DIPS Retraining course and the course date is later than the date when the suspension is supposed to take effect, he will have the effective date of the suspension pushed back. This is so that the licensee may complete the course and have the suspension period reduced. It bears remembering that for a motorist to be facing suspension and revocation, he would have committed several offences before and he would have had opportunities previously to appeal against those offences. We have to ensure that our processes are implemented fairly and consistently. A point that Mdm Rahayu also mentioned in her speech.
4. There were also questions on obligations for motorists in accidents involving animals. We will have to balance between animal welfare, and the safety of road users. That is why the Bill obligates the motorist to stop only when it is safe to do so.We do not want to be too prescriptive in the law by stating when it is safe or unsafe, as it is not possible to cover all situations and accurately describe when it is safe or unsafe. Similarly, it is not possible to be exhaustive in listing out all the types of animals that motorists should stop for in accidents involving animals. The Police will take a practical approach, and the Courts will decide depending on the facts of the case.
Approach Towards Road Safety
5. Mr Deputy Speaker, I would now like to speak on our wider approach towards road safety. Members spoke on the progress of existing road safety measures and made new suggestions to improve road safety.
6. I will address these issues in turn.
7. First, on existing road safety measures. Members spoke on the need to calibrate our approach to different road user groups. We fully agree – allow me to explain how we have done so.
8. Mr Christopher de Souza asked about the measures that have been taken to target “at-risk” road user groups. Mr Melvin Yong also pointed out the need to educate and engage with motorcyclists as an “at-risk” group. We agree. In recent years, TP has identified vulnerable road user groups, such as elderly pedestrians and motorcyclists and taken an increasingly calibrated approach to working with these different road user groups. For example, TP regularly engages these groups, through targeted regular road safety dialogues as well as outreach events such as the annual Singapore Ride Safe. TP also developed the Road Master Test Kit, to help elderly road users assess their eyesight, hearing and reaction times, and to share safe road use habits with them.
9. Mdm Rahayu Mahzam spoke about the need to engage and shape the behaviours of vocational drivers.We agree, and TP works closely with agencies such as MOM, MOT and LTA to introduce measures for vocational drivers. For example, TP works with the Workplace Safety and Health Council to remind heavy vehicle drivers and their employers regularly on the importance of adopting safe driving practices. Under the Workplace Safety and Health Council’s Drive Safe, Work Safe campaign, more than 200 heavy vehicle fleet-owners have pledged to implement measures to encourage safe driving by their employees. TP also engages taxi and private-hire car drivers, their companies, as well as the National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association on safe driving practices. To remind taxi drivers to stay alert and drive safely when they approach high-risk areas, TP worked with taxi companies to incorporate the locations of high-risk areas in the Mobile Data Terminals of taxis.
10. Members also spoke about the need to continually update our measures. TP and LTA have stepped up enforcement, education and engagement, to improve road safety. We conduct periodic reviews to ensure our measures are effective.
11. Mr Ang Hin Kee asked to conduct periodic reviews of driving course content and to increase engagement initiatives to raise awareness among different road user groups. We agree. TP regularly updates the driving course curriculum. It is through these reviews that we have decided to introduce simulator training for all new learner motorists towards the end of the year. This is to allow them to practice safe driving habits in a controlled environment. On engagement, we agree that this is important, and MHA and TP are working on extending our outreach to as many road users as possible.
12. Dr Chia Shi-Lu spoke about the need to cater to an aging motorist population. He suggested to make adjustment to our regime, such as customised training and health assessments. We agree. At present, we already have calibrated health checks for motorists. Motorists above the age of 65 are required to undergo and pass a medical examination every three years. Heavy vehicle drivers have added responsibilities and are required to do so every year. We will study Dr Chia’s suggestions.
13. Second, members recognised the need to explore new solutions and have raised new suggestions to improve road safety.
14. Dr Walter Theseira suggested to scale road traffic fines according to income, to improve deterrence and allow equity in the administration of justice. We note that some other jurisdictions, such as Finland, have implemented such an income-based system. Other jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom had piloted trials that were eventually discontinued. MHA will study the suitability and impact of implementing a similar system.
15. Ms Joan Pereira suggested for TP to be involved in the earlier stages of infrastructural road planning. Indeed, this is being done. TP works with HDB and LTA in the early stages of planning for new estates. TP assesses the likely traffic and pedestrian flow in the new HDB estates and provides advice on the specific locations where enforcement cameras ought to be installed. One recent example is Bidadari new town where the TP assessed and decided to install two red-light cameras. Likewise, TP provides inputs, where required, to LTA’s road safety infrastructure plans. Most recently, TP worked with LTA to reduce the speed limits at two Silver Zones from 40km/h to 30km/h.
16. Members also made various other suggestions such as Mr Ang Hin Kee’s suggestion to issue rebates to car dealers who install safety-enabling technologies in their vehicles and provide training for vocational drivers. Dr Chia Shi-Lu, Professor Lim Sun Sun, Mr Melvin Yong and Mr Murali Pillai suggested to leverage on new technologies, such as urban analytics, ignition-interlock devices and speed limitors. Mr Christopher de Souza suggested providing support for victims of drink-driving accidents.Professor Lim Sun Sun and Ms Joan Pereira also suggested to expedite the installation of Red-Amber-Green arrows at all right-turning junctions. Dr Chia Shi-Lu suggested to restrict offenders’ access to vehicles. Mr Melvin Yong suggested for LTA to consider the installation of countdown timers and to disallow cyclists from bus lanes. Mr Murali Pillai suggested for MOT to tighten the framework such that owners are held responsible for death and injuries arising from their neglect to maintain their vehicles.
17. Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank the members for their suggestions. We agree with the members that a wider approach to ensuring road safety is important. MHA will consider these suggestions with the relevant agencies for future reviews.
18. Thank you.