Are Singaporeans generally bad drivers?
Based on the sheer number of videos you can find on Facebook depicting motorists in Singapore driving and behaving badly on the roads, the answer seems to be an unequivocal ‘yes’.
But, why is that so? What causes drivers to behave badly on the road? And, are all drivers in Singapore really that bad?
The Pride spoke to three Singaporean drivers to find out more about what makes them behave the way they do when they get behind the wheel. We hope that knowing why drivers do certain things would help us understand them better, so we can be kinder and more considerate to them.
The Good Driver
It might seem incredible, but Samuel Ho claims to have never been involved in a road accident in all his 26 years of driving.
The 48-year-old, who works in the finance industry, credits this clean record to his strict adherence to the three C’s of safe driving – concentration, control and courtesy – that he learnt from his driving instructor.
“The first time I heard about those three C’s from my instructor, I thought it made a lot of sense,” Ho told The Pride. “Firstly, you have to concentrate when you’re driving, because there are many things happening on the road at any one time. You need to be able to be clear about what’s going on, and be able to spot dangerous situations so as to avoid them.
“The next C is control, and this relates to your vehicle. A car has the potential to deal a lot of damage – to others and to ourselves – so it’s important for us to have control of it.
“The last C, courtesy, is the one that I see a lot of road users don’t practice. I don’t know why that is, because it’s the easiest out of all. All you need to do is be nice to your fellow road users. There’s no need to see everyone else on the road as the enemy. All of us just want to get from one location to another, surely we can be pleasant about it, right?”
Even so, Ho admits that he has come close to getting into an accident on several occasions. He believes these near misses often stem from the “impatience” of other road users.
“Just last year, I almost knocked a motorcyclist down,” said Ho, of a rider who was weaving from one lane to another. “He suddenly cut into my lane and had to brake immediately because the car in front had slowed down,” Ho recounted. “Thankfully, I was able to brake in time because I wasn’t speeding.
“However, it’s usually always the same story. I often see cars speeding when there’s no traffic cameras around, or changing lanes abruptly without signalling. Some even tailgate and high-beam other drivers who they think are going too slowly for their liking, even though those drivers are actually within the speed limit.
“I think it’s a bad mindset to have. Maybe you’re in a rush. But, as the saying goes, ‘better late than never’. Why put your life, and the lives of others, at risk just because you want to get somewhere quickly? Also, if you don’t want to be late, maybe you should set off earlier next time.”
The bad driver
Homemaker Madam Low makes no bones about her dislike of driving. “It’s so stressful!” she exclaims. “I’m on edge the whole time, and every other driver seem to have something against me.”
Nonetheless, the 55-year-old often still finds herself behind the wheel of her family car, as she uses it to run errands for her family.
Despite boasting 30 years of driving experience, Madam Low acknowledges that she is still prone to making bad decisions on the road, which has led to her getting involved in quite a few minor accidents over the years.
And she believes her being accident-prone is a consequence of her unwillingness to conform to the “me first” culture on Singapore’s roads.
“I think it’s a personality issue. To drive on the roads of Singapore, you need to be garang (fierce) or you’re going to get bullied and taken advantage of,” Madam Low explained.
“I’m quite mild-mannered in nature, so very often, I’m on the receiving end of bad behaviour on the roads. I’ve had drivers tailgating me even though I’m driving at 90km/h in the middle lane on the expressway. Others would cut into my lane suddenly without signalling. And some drivers will just drive very close to me and force me to give way to them.”
Madam Low, however, concedes that she is far from being a model driver. Indeed, she says her perpetual nervousness on the roads means she is usually just “one fright away” from losing control of her vehicle.
“I know as drivers, we should always try to remain calm and in control when driving,” said Madam Low. “However, that’s not the kind of person I am, in general…I can even sometimes get stressed when there’s a car waiting behind me as I’m parking.
“I’ve more or less accepted that this is the kind of driver that I am. Knowing this, I do take steps to try and minimise the chances of getting into an accident. For example, I won’t do any overtaking, and I try to drive on the left or middle lane of the road. And obviously, I don’t ever exceed the speed limit – if anything, I try to keep at least 10km/h below the speed limit at any one time.
“But I think the best thing that could happen for me is if people stopped driving as if they owned the road. A bit more patience and respect for other road users will go a long way to making driving in Singapore a more pleasant experience for everyone.”
The ugly driver
About four years ago, Mr Tan was driving on the right lane of the PIE when another car began to tailgate him. The driver then flashed his high beam, before sounding his horn to indicate that he wanted Tan to move and allow him to pass.
As Tan – whose father was with him in the car at that time – was already driving beyond the speed limit, and it was inconvenient for him to filter to the middle lane due to traffic, he reasoned that there was no need for him to give way to the car behind him.
When the driver realised that 30-year-old Tan was not giving way, he grew frustrated and began sounding his horn incessantly.
Once the opportunity presented itself, the driver immediately sped dangerously past Tan’s car on the left. And, in that brief window where the cars were side by side, the driver made a rude gesture towards Tan and his father.
Enraged by the driver’s behaviour, Tan – egged on by his equally volatile father – gave chase to the driver. The two cars eventually exited the expressway and stopped by the side of the road, as both Tan and the other driver got out to continue their argument.
“Things were heated right from the get-go,” Tan recounted to The Pride. “He was angry that we didn’t let him overtake at the start. I was angry with how dangerously he was driving, and how rude he had been towards us.
“Unsurprisingly, we came to blows, although it wasn’t as violent as it could have been. My father actually went to the boot of my car to take a wrench to use as a weapon. Thankfully, I was still rational enough to stop him before he did anything silly. But I think that kind of scared the other driver off anyway, because he got into his car and drove away immediately.”
While that incident did not escalate beyond a minor altercation between the two drivers, Tan admits there have been times when the police had to be called in because the situation had threatened to get out of hand.
Tan, however, says he recognises the fact that these ugly situations usually occur because he struggles with road rage and is often unable to keep his emotions in check.
“I think you can tell from how my father behaved in that incident that he has quite a temper,” Tan remarked with a wry smile. “And, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m generally quite a nice guy, but once I’m in the car, I get triggered very easily.
“It’s very simple – if you drive normally, then there’s no reason for me to get angry. If, however, you’re a road menace, and your bad driving affects me, then my natural instinct will be to retaliate.
“Of course, I know that’s wrong. I know I shouldn’t think like that, and I shouldn’t lose control of my emotions when I’m driving. Ideally, I’d want to be a more patient and gracious driver, but it’ll really help if other people on the roads start driving properly.”
Here are five tips to help you become a kinder and more gracious driver on the roads.
1) Use your direction indicator, and signal early
2) Use your horn only when necessary
3) Give way to other road users whenever you can
4) Keep calm at all times and give other drivers the benefit of the doubt
5) Avoid driving if you’re tired or not in the right frame of mind to do so, like when you’re upset or emotionally unstable
Head down to this year’s Kindness Carnival to learn more about how you can practice graciousness on the roads. You can also make a pledge to be kind to other road users at selected Shell Petrol Stations.