SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE ROAD TRAFFIC
(AMENDMENT) BILL IN PARLIAMENT ON 8 JULY
Mr Speaker Sir,
Road traffic casualties often have severe implications on victims and their families. If the victim is injured, it means that he has to take time off work, which could result in loss of income or employment. In more serious cases when the victim sustains a disability, or even death, entire lives and families are damaged irreversibly.
I had a bubbly, young resident in her mid-thirties, she rode a motorbike to work. She was a restaurant manager in a country club in Jurong area. One night, her parents waited and waited. She never made it home. On her way home to Yishun, at the traffic junction on Lentor Avenue and Yio Chu Kang Road, when the traffic light turned green in her favour, she went straight towards Khatib, but a car turned right hastily and knocked her down. She was killed. The whole family was so distraught, her mother fell ill soon after that, and passed away. This is how a reckless driver ruin a family.
Meanwhile, perpetrators might get off with a fine. In this case, the driver was fined $8,000 and suspended for 5 years. That happened in 2013, which means he got to drive again since last year. The penalties for dangerous driving are simply disproportionate to the impact of their actions. That’s why I agree with the proposed amendments for new mandatory minimum jail sentences to penalise dangerous and careless driving that cause death and grievous hurt. I hope they will deter people from driving dangerously.
I also commend the change of law to immediately revoke the licenses of people charged with dangerous driving, those with previous offences, and those doing illegal racing. Indeed, such people are a menace on the roads and should have their license revoked immediately.
Very often, my residents tell me that their sleep was interrupted by the noise from the racing vehicles along Yishun Avenue 1, Yishun Street 51 and Yishun Ring Road. This happens especially on Friday and Saturday nights. They need not sleep but my residents need to sleep. Certainly, I hope to see more enforcement.
Besides the obvious examples of dangerous driving, there have been previous grievous accidents which occurred because the driver did not have sufficient rest, or was driving while on medication that would impair driving ability, or if the vehicle was not maintained in good condition. In a recent high-profile accident, a veteran rugby coach was fatally hit by a runaway tyre while riding a motorcycle.
Would such cases be classified as dangerous driving? I note that there are no specific regulations or benchmarks when it comes to determining such conditions. Will the Ministry look into this? At the same time, we need to have a public conversation about dangerous and careless driving. The number of summonses issued to motorists increased from 152,700 in 2015 to 181,000 in 2018.
Even as we move towards a car-lite society, it is concerning that there are more incidents of dangerous and careless driving. What are the reasons for this increase in road accidents? What can be done about it? Given that the top cause of accidents in Singapore is failing to keep a proper lookout or distracted driving, how can we better enforce the ban on using smartphones while driving?
A survey last year revealed that nearly one in two Singapore drivers feel that the roads have become less safe than they were three years ago, and reasons for these include more aggressive drivers, more non-motorists on the roads including cyclists and PMDs, and more private-hire vehicles.
Is it time to examine the need to strike a healthier balance among the types of users on the roads? We should also look into addressing the increase in aggressive driving, whether it is due to frustration at the road conditions, or due to stress and other personal reasons.
Although PMDs aside from bicycles and e-bikes are not explicitly covered under this Bill, I would like to remind the Ministry that some PMDs do go on roads, whether legally or not. The survey I cited just now show that drivers feel unsafe because of them. So they do impact road safety.
Many drivers have seen them zig-zag in many parts of Singapore. How many such riders have been caught by Traffic Police?
So I would like to once again call for measures to manage PMDs. Countries like Germany, Peru, have banned PMDs on footpaths. France have just announced that they will ban PMDs on footpaths from September. Many cities have built dedicated cycle and PMD lanes on the roads. That would help both drivers and pedestrians feel safer. I would like to urge our Ministry of Transport to seriously consider these measures for the safety of our pedestrians. How can a 3 year old kid be hit by e-scooter in a shopping mall? How can our commuters feel so unsafe while waiting for public transport at bus stops? Also, motorised PMDs should be licensed, and have their license revoked if they hurt someone, just like in this Act of zig-zagging on the roads or along bus stops. I hope the Active Mobility Act will take some lessons from the Road Safety Act and implement stricter deterrent measures.
Next, I would like to talk about jaywalkers. Jaywalking also cause road accidents. There seems to be not much enforcement. Is this no man’s land? Who is supposed to enforce? A resident shared with me that he was involved in a road accident because of jaywalkers. If I may use his language, he said, “早不过，迟不过，偏偏就在我的车面前这样地闯过，意外就发生了。”最终，据我的居民说，交警给了这个鲁莽过马路的行人一个警告，而我的居民被控上法庭。这，是否公平？
Sir, I support the motion.
Watch the speech here
Watch MHA’s response here