by Patricia Siswandjo on

A little girl is run over by a speeding personal mobility device (PMD) at an HDB void deck. The horrified mother goes to the girl’s aid. You’d think the e-scooter rider would be contrite and worried about the girl’s condition. No. He remains defiant and refuses to apologise. He even insists he has every right to ride there, even though the law says otherwise.

Shockingly, throngs of netizens jump to his defence, blaming the mother instead.

Such attitudes are the reason e-scooters should be banned in Singapore.

Speaking in Parliament on Oct 7 – a day after the incident – Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary noted the recent slew of serious accidents, one of which led to the death of a 65-year-old cyclist. He added that the transport ministry would review their current approach towards PMDs, and might introduce additional measures or ban them completely.

A day later, Garnell Glenn Bernard, the father of a three-year-old girl, shared shocking footage of his daughter being mowed down by the speeding e-scooter rider. The heated exchange that followed highlighted how Puthucheary’s comments were pertinent.

In the footage, little Nur Syahirah was waddling along the common corridor of an HDB block in Boon Lay Drive. Her mother, Madam Siti Aisah, 42, was talking with a friend nearby.

Moments later, a speeding e-scooter rider whizzed by and crashed into little Syahirah, knocking her down.

In his post, he added that while his daughter suffered a minor thigh injury, she is “currently doing alright”. Bernard has also since reported the PMD rider to the police.

Many users commented on his post to wish his daughter a speedy recovery, and to vent their frustration over such irresponsible riders. After all, this collision comes a month after the use of PMDs was prohibited in HDB estates’ common spaces and void decks.

Yet despite the riding ban in HDB common areas and the recent spate of gruesome accidents, the 19-year-old PMD rider in question remained defiant.

He argued he was allowed to ride in the void deck, said Madam Siti to The New Paper. “He kept saying, ‘Why cannot ride here?’ and ‘Anyone can ride here’.”

And what was as shocking as the accident itself, were netizens’ mean comments that were quick to follow.

Many netizens echoed the rider’s sentiments. They insisted that pedestrians and, in the Boon Lay case, the victim’s mother were to blame.

One Facebook user even wrote: “Make sure you report to police the mother of the child for negligence too. She was busy talking, leaving her three-year-old daughter to run about.”

He added in a later comment that even though the child should be allowed to run about, parents must maintain a watchful eye on the child.

Another commented: “Considering I’ve seen toddlers running out onto a cycling path unsupervised, causing me to nearly crash my bicycle, […] parents need to watch out for their kids. If I hit the kid and injure myself, I will still be asking the parents for compensation.”

“[Part of the blame is on the] mother because she didn’t keep an eye on her child while talking to others,” another Facebook user wrote.

Hurtful comments don’t help at all

I’m not a mother myself, but I am an elder sister to a seven-year-old and a three-year-old. Like little Syahirah, my siblings are energetic and curious. I know first-hand how they need only a mere second to wander off.

Image Source: Shutterstock / wong yu liang

Plus, I don’t have to be a mother to know the horror Madam Siti must have felt as her innocent toddler screamed in pain. So is it actually reasonable to blame the mother in this case?

After all, not only was the rider speeding, but riding an e-scooter along the common corridor is in itself illegal. And the reason it is banned is to protect the vulnerable, including young children like Syahirah.

So where are the strident comments denouncing the toddler’s parents as ‘useless’ or ‘negligent’ or ‘at fault’ coming from?

Many netizens quick to defend mother from online trolls

Thankfully, many other netizens expressed words of empathy instead.

One Kareen Lee-Chan commented that it was unreasonable to blame the victim, saying: “Ridiculous. It could’ve been anyone of us! Not just a toddler.”

Facebook user Colin Chee pointed out that HDB void decks have had a ‘no riding’ rule for decades.

He agreed with Lee-Chan’s sentiment, and added: “It could have been an adult who casually walked past that pillar into the path of that e-scooter. If someone commits high rise litter and it lands on a passerby, [do we] blame the passerby for not watching out for litter?”

Some netizens also chimed in to highlight how irresponsible PMD riders have affected their families, too.

A fellow mother, Eileen Liow, wrote: “I had to shout like a mad woman because some teen came around a corner when my three-year-old and I were walking to the lift,” she said. “My boy froze and that saved him from [becoming] the next unfortunate subject of [a Straits Times] article.”

With great power comes great responsibility

As the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility”. As the commander of a device that can hurt and potentially kill people, the onus is on the PMD driver to be responsible and careful, especially if they are on a path that is shared by others.

Furthermore, whether or not the child was unsupervised may be beside the point.

The recent spate of high-profile accidents has shown that accidents involving PMDs and pedestrians are increasingly common, and serious.

Image Source: Shutterstock / wellphoto

Because it’s not deadly just for pedestrians, but for riders, too. A recent national study found that there was twice the risk of hospitalisation as a result of injuries when using powered PMDs, compared with manual devices.

A large percentage of those admitted had serious injuries. Dr Teo Li Tserng, director of Trauma Services at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, told The Straits Times that the injured tend to be “young people who should be up and about contributing to society”. He said “one-third” of these injured riders went away with “long-term disabilities”.

In the wake of such news, PMD users must be more mindful when they ride.

Because unless they learn to be more considerate and take responsibility for their actions, a total ban on PMDs could become a reality.

So let’s not allow it to come to that. We can all be kind to one another on shared spaces. Ride where you’re allowed to, and with consideration to others. It’s best when everybody is safe.