Chairman, Singapore Road Safety Council, Mr Bernard Tay,
Commander of Traffic Police, Mr Gerald Lim,
Members and Partners of the Singapore Road Safety Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- Thank you for inviting me to the launch of the second edition of the “Use Your RoadSense” initiative.
- This morning, Commander/TP had announced the annual traffic statistics for 2018.There have been fewer road traffic accidents over the past year. But the number of fatal traffic accidents increased slightly. Notably, accidents caused by red-light beating and drink-driving offences increased.
- That’s what I am going to address here today. Irresponsible driving.
- Irresponsible driving remains a source of grave concern. Over the past five years, the number of feedback letters TP has received from the public on cases of irresponsible driving have more than doubled – from 6,900 cases in 2014 to 18,500 in 2018. Between 2015 and 2018, the number of summonses issued rose by a fifth – from 152,700 to 181,000. These are not small numbers. Some will even say that they are alarming. So what is going on?
- Despite our enforcement and education, there are still motorists who drive or ride in a dangerous manner –against the flow of traffic, swerving across lanes suddenly without warning, and beating red lights. Many of us have seen such instances of blatant disregard for our traffic laws and for the safety of others. On social media, you can see lots of videos uploaded by concerned citizens who have seen such cases of irresponsible driving. Such reckless actions have deadly consequences. Innocent lives are lost, families are wrecked. Many are left to struggle to cope with the loss – mentally, emotionally and sometimes also financially. Even if not fatal, the victims may also suffer long-term disabilities. Irresponsible driving has real, tragic and irreversible consequences.
- Let me share with you a few of these cases. In March 2015, a taxi driver was killed along the PIE by a repeat drink-driver. The taxi driver was the sole breadwinner for his family. After the accident, he remained bed-ridden and uncommunicative for eight months until he eventually passed on. For eight months, his family was grief-stricken and wracked with uncertainty. Finally, his family had to downgrade their flat to help make ends meet and their son had to forego his studies, to start working to support the family.
- In February 2016, a 62-year old rag-and-bone lady was killed, and her husband severely injured, after a drink-driver crashed into them. She was the caregiver to her nine-year old grandson, who was suffered from an auto-immune disorder. The driver had been drinking for nine straight hours before the accident.
- In October 2017, a four-year old girl was killed, after a car ran over her along Bukit Batok Central. I cannot begin to imagine the anguish that her mother would have gone through.
- Just this month, a car mounted a pedestrian kerb and crashed into one of my residents in Punggol. Her foot was severed on the spot and multiple operations later, the doctors are still trying to save her other foot. She doesn’t deserve this. She was walking on a Sunday morning to church.
- And a few days ago, on 10 February, an accident struck close to the heart of the Home Team. Staff Sgt Salinah, a police officer, and a young mother to three children, had just finished her duty at Marina Bay Neighbourhood Police Centre, when she was knocked down by a car at the pedestrian crossing. She was declared brain dead, and her husband had to make a very difficult decision to take her off life support on Valentine’s day. Her husband said that his children miss their mother most just before they go to sleep. His youngest daughter used to hold her mother’s hand as she fell asleep. My heart broke when I heard that. It is an image that is so close to my heart. I’m sure it is something that you also understand. Her husband said Mdm Salinah had been his soulmate, and she has always been there for him. He said “It feels like I have lost a part of me.”
- Friends, colleagues, fellow Singaporeans, irresponsible driving has consequences. Innocent lives lost, families wrecked. Children who have to grow up without their parent’s love.
- What do we do about it? What more can we do?
- TP and LTA have taken steps to correct improper behaviour on the roads. We ramped up education and engagement campaigns, such as the one here today. Additionally, TP had introduced the Safe Driving Course for errant drivers, and recently announced that simulator training will be introduced for learner motorists later this year. LTA also has ongoing initiatives to improve road safety, by introducing Silver Zones and red-amber-green arrows at right-turns.
- We also increased the number of enforcement cameras. Since 2013, TP has introduced twelve additional speed cameras and operationalized Average Speed Cameras along Tanah Merah Coast Road. TP also upgraded its red-light cameras to digital models. At the same time, we published the locations of these cameras, and made them very obvious with bright orange paintwork, blinker lights and prominent signage. TP does not want to fine you. They want you to know where the cameras are so that you will check your speed and drive carefully.
- Are these steps enough? Quite obviously the answer is no. As evidenced by the amount of feedback we are getting and the number of videos circulating online of irresponsible driving, there is more we need to do to improve driving behavior for the sake of all road users. To complement existing efforts in education and enforcement, we need stronger deterrence against unsafe driving. MHA and TP have been reviewing penalties under the Road Traffic Act. I would now like to share our thinking on this.
Enhance Criminal Penalties
- We plan to enhance criminal penalties for dangerous and careless driving.
- Today, for drink-driving resulting in killing a person, under the law, the offender may face a maximum of five years in jail, but the actual sentences are usually lower. For instance, in the example of the 62-year old rag-and-bone grandma, the motorist who caused her death, who had been drinking for nine straight hours before the accident, received a jail term of only a few months. In our view, the penalty is not sufficient. A life has been taken away, and the family is left to struggle to cope. The penalty neither deters, nor punishes sufficiently.
- And we are not alone in wanting to increase deterrence. We have reviewed the laws in other places. A similar offence will get up to 14 years’ jail in the UK, and up to 15 years’ jail in Hong Kong. Our penalties need to be strengthened.
- We want to increase the penalties for motorists who drive irresponsibly and cause serious accidents. This will deter them and ensure that they receive sentences that are commensurate with the harm they caused.
- For example, for causing death by dangerous driving, we propose a maximum penalty of eight years in jail, up from five currently. If the driver caused the accident whilst intoxicated, he could be slapped with an additional two years’ jail, on top of the eight years.
- For the same reason of deterrence, we want to impose mandatory minimum jail sentences for the most serious offences. For causing death by dangerous driving, a motorist should serve a minimum sentence of two years in jail. For doing so whilst intoxicated, he should serve an additional minimum sentence of a year. This gives us a minimum jail term of three years. Where a motorist is a repeat offender, we will further increase the maximum penalties and mandatory minimum jail sentences.
- We also need to do more to keep irresponsible motorists off the roads. This is meant to protect other road users, who are safe and responsible. If you are a known danger on the roads, you should not be allowed to drive or ride. We plan to do so in three ways.
- First, we will keep motorists convicted of dangerous and careless driving offences, particularly if they do so while intoxicated, off the roads for longer periods of time. Currently, a motorist who drink-drives and kills someone will face only a minimum one-year disqualification. We think this should go up more.
- Second, we will suspend the licence of motorists who are undergoing trial for serious driving offences. Currently, TP has the power to suspend the licence only for a small number of offences, such as causing death by dangerous driving. We intend to expand this group of offences. For example, a motorist who is charged for dangerous driving causing hurt should have his licence suspended immediately as well. Likewise, motorists who are caught for drink-driving.
- Third, we will forfeit the vehicle used to commit an offence. It can be an effective deterrent against irresponsible driving, beyond just imposing a fine. Currently, the Courts may do so for certain offences such as illegal racing. We think we should be able to forfeit vehicles for more offences. For example, in cases of dangerous driving that cause death or grievous hurt.
- We have posted on REACH, the Government’s feedback portal, a document which provides details of the proposed changes. We would like to seek public feedback on these changes. You will be able to do so from today till 13 March 2019 and all comments received will be considered carefully.
Raise Composition Sums
- Thus far, I have spoken about increasing penalties for cases of dangerous and careless driving and riding, like drink-driving. These attract criminal charges.
- At the same time, it is also important that we nip unsafe driving behavior in the bud, before serious accidents happen and people are killed or hurt. I am referring to offences which are not serious enough for us to press criminal charges, and yet, the behavior poses a high risk to public safety. The sheer amount of public feedback we get on this also reflects how concerned the public is about unsafe driving behavior.
- Unsafe driving behavior include offences such as making illegal U-turns, speeding, using mobile devices while driving, and beating red lights. For such offences, if no accident has resulted, TP usually compounds the offence, for a fine between $70 and $230. Demerit points are also meted out.
- Every once in a while, we will have to review the composition sums, so that they continue to be an effective deterrence. The composition sums were last reviewed almost 20 years ago. This is the case not only for offences committed by motorists, but also those by cyclists and pedestrians.
- The changes will allow us to update the composition sums, and bring them closer to those meted out for other comparable offences. For example, today a personal mobility device (“PMD”) cannot be ridden on the roads. For doing so on minor roads, the composition sum for a first-time offender is $300. This is even higher than the composition sums meted out by TP for traffic offences. But it is very obvious that there is at least an equally high likelihood of causing serious hurt, when someone is driving a car carelessly. So, we will increase the composition sums to be commensurate with the amount of harm the offence can cause. For example, for beating a red light, we will increase the composition sums, to between $400 and $500, from $200 to $230 currently.
- The details of the revised composition sums will be issued through a media release, after the event. Here, I would like to just outline two broad principles behind the changes for motoring offences.
- First, the increases in composition sums for serious offences will be steeper than those for less serious ones. The composition fines for stopping in the yellow box and illegal U-turns will go up, from $70 currently to $100, for light vehicles like cars.
- However, for more serious offences such as red-light running and using mobile devices while driving, the offences have a much higher likelihood of causing a serious accident. Hence we must send a stronger signal. We will raise the composition sums for these, from $200 currently to $400, for light vehicles.
- Second, for any given offence, the increase in composition sums for heavy vehicles will be higher than that for light vehicles. This is because heavy vehicles are more likely than light vehicles to cause death or serious injury when they are involved in accidents. So consequently, there is a need for a stronger deterrent. So, for example, the composition sum for using a hand-phone while driving a heavy vehicle will be increased to $500, compared to $400 for light vehicles.
- I have touched on a wide range of proposed punitive measures. Some of these measures may not be popular. We understand that. Our approach towards road safety involves a wider range of measures than just implementing tougher laws or heavier penalties. Like the example I mentioned before, we painted the speed cameras a bright orange, with prominent advance warning signs, to tell motorists to slow down. The Traffic Police does not want to fine you. They would much prefer not to. Their objective is to have safe roads for all road users. We want you to have a safe commute on our roads to get home safe and sound every day to be with you family, to be with your loved ones. And even if you are a safe driver, we also need to make sure others drive safely and not put you and your loved ones in danger.
Use Your RoadSense
- Strengthening deterrence and raising penalties cannot be the only instrument in our toolkit. There is a need for sustained education and engagement, to get motorists and pedestrians alike to inculcate safe road-use habits. To create a safe environment for all, we need to build a gracious culture on our roads.
- This is where the “Use Your RoadSense” initiative comes into the picture. Since “Use Your RoadSense” was launched in 2015, TP and its partners have conducted more than 3,400 engagement events with different road users. Through these engagements, we have reached out to close to 900,000 members of the public. Numerous print and digital advisories have also been issued, covering a range of concerns – from jaywalking, to road rage.
- Not everyone will change their behavior immediately after having attended an engagement or viewed an advisory. Mindsets and habits take time to change. This is why public education cannot be a one-off effort. We must sustain and build on the past work of “Use Your RoadSense”.
- Today, we will launch the second edition of “Use Your RoadSense”. The theme for this edition is called “Take the Road to Responsibility”. This is a call to action, for all road users to exercise responsibility, graciousness and courtesy in our daily commute.
- A car easily weighs 1,000 kg, and a laden lorry can be several times that. When travelling at even 50 km per hour, that’s a lot of force and momentum. With great power, comes great responsibility. I didn’t invent that - Spiderman’s Uncle Ben did. But it applies also in our instance. Let’s take the responsibility to drive safely.
- Let’s also be gracious and courteous drivers. Every small act of graciousness, such as giving way to vehicles with the right of way, goes a long way towards making our roads safer and our commutes less stressful.
- TP will conduct a nationwide study on road-use attitudes and behaviour in the second edition of “Use Your RoadSense”. A key outcome is the RoadSense Index – a gauge of how gracious and responsible we collectively are when we use our roads. The data will help us track changes in attitudes and behaviors, and help inform what other measures are needed.
- Without further ado, I hereby officially launch the second edition of the “Use Your RoadSense” initiative. Thank you all for your unwavering support and let us together “Take the Road to Responsibility”!