Wednesday 30 May 2012

Rochor Road-Victoria Street junction is safe, says LTA

It has done checks but some drivers, experts point out potential hazards
By Christopher Tan, The Straits Times, 29 May 2012

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) has checked the Rochor Road-Victoria Street junction where two recent high-profile accidents took place, and found it to be safe.

The checks were done in the day as well as in the middle of the night after the accidents.

But 'as an added precautionary measure', LTA said it will 'synchronise the green phase' of the pedestrian crossing signals and the Victoria Street signal lights, so that both will be green at the same time.

It added that it will reinstate a set of overhead traffic signals once MRT works in the area are completed next year.

LTA group director of road operations Chin Kian Keong added yesterday: 'We cannot over-emphasise the importance for motorists to abide by the mandatory traffic signals and keep to the speed limits, and not to drive if they drink.'

The overhead traffic signals in question were removed when construction of the Downtown Line's Bugis station started five years ago, because of space constraints.

Observers said the absence of overhead signals, as well as a number of other characteristics of the area, could have made the junction more dicey for drivers.

On May 12 at 4.15am, a speeding Ferrari travelling down Victoria Street towards Kallang went through a red light and slammed into a taxi. The driver, taxi driver and cab passenger died, and a passing motorcyclist was injured.

Last Saturday at 3.15am at the exact spot, a Lexus driven by a man suspected to be intoxicated hit a taxi after allegedly breaching a red light. The passenger in the cab was slightly injured.

Retired traffic engineer Joseph Yee said that overhead traffic signals are a standard feature at most major junctions.

Mr Yee, 67, said they improve visibility, as vertical pole signals are often visible only to drivers of the first few vehicles in a queue as these structures are not tall enough.

He said in situations where a junction does not have overhead signals, and subsequent junctions have them, 'some ambiguity in some circumstances' could result. For instance, a driver can miss a red flashed on vertical signal poles and see the green at the subsequent overhead signals.

Financial adviser Kenneth Swee, 39, was in his car at the junction when the second accident happened last Saturday.

He had taken his young son to Raffles Hospital because of a high fever that day. He said drivers in the front of the queue on Rochor Road that early morning were 'cautious and took their time crossing the junction'.

But he decided to move quickly past it, to get away from the zone. The cab that was hit by the Lexus was just behind him.

He said the vertical pole signals on Victoria Street's side of the junction are placed close to street-side buildings, and look 'like they are part of the buildings' light fixtures'.

Plant hedges on that road near the junction also prevented motorists on Rochor Road from spotting vehicles coming in the direction of the Ferrari and Lexus that hit the two separate taxis in recent weeks, he said. 'The hedges are about waist high, but if you are in a car, you can't see the vehicles behind them.'

In addition, the entire area felt as if it was 'dimly lit', he said.

He said this was 'an illusion' brought on by strong illumination at the MRT worksite, which made the street lighting in the vicinity dim in relation.

Driving experts have also weighed in on the issue.

Former racing ace Denis Lian, 40, who is brand manager of Wearnes Automotive's McLaren franchise, said drivers in low-slung cars might miss the most immediate traffic signals because their line of sight is on the next set of lights.

'It's parallax error. At the Victoria Street junction, there's a pedestrian crossing just before the traffic lights,' said Mr Lian, referring to the two sets of signal lights the LTA said it would synchronise.

According to the Traffic Police, the junction has had three accidents involving fatalities since 2009, and an average of four injury-related accidents a year.

Technically, this would qualify it as a 'black spot' - a traffic junction that has logged more than 15 accidents resulting in death or injuries in three years.

* LTA hastens installation of overhead traffic lights at 'Ferrari crash site'
Channel NewsAsia, 4 Jun 2012

LTA said it will start installing the overhead traffic lights on Tuesday, instead of waiting for Downtown Line MRT works to be completed next year.

The traffic lights are expected to start operating early next week.

LTA said it decided to do so following public feedback and suggestions on how to further improve the road junction.

A fatal accident at the junction involving a Ferrari and a taxi on May 12 left three dead.

Another accident occurred on May 26 involving a Lexus and a taxi.

LTA said its traffic engineers have studied the feedback and suggestions, and decided to bring forward the installation of the overhead traffic lights at the junction as another precautionary measure, instead of waiting till 2013 as planned.

Authorities synchronised traffic lights at the junction last week to improve safety in the area.

By June 5, the overhead traffic signals will also be installed and the lights are expected to be operational by next week.

However, the overhead traffic lights will result in a narrowing of the pedestrian footpath there until the road is reinstated after the construction of Downtown Line (Stage 1) is completed by the middle of 2013. 

LTA said this is a trade-off to accommodate the additional precautionary measure.

Motorists and experts said that the positioning of the traffic lights at the intersection may be confusing to drivers.

Along Victoria Street, the junctions just before and after the intersection with Rochor Road both have overhead traffic lights while the intersection where the accidents took place, did not have any.

Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the National University of Singapore, Professor Lee Der-Horng, said: "This overhead traffic light installation will enhance safety. It will register a stronger message to the driver and alert them to the traffic condition in this particular junction".

Apart from traffic signals, there are also calls for clear signs indicating the area to be at high risk of accidents.

One example is the International Road Assessment Programme (IRAP) which uses colour-coded signs to warn motorists that they are in a high-risk area.

Singapore Road Traffic Council chairman, Bernard Tay, said this system is already used in the US, Australia and some parts of Europe.

IRAP assesses the road according to the elements in the vicinity.

Roads are colour coded according to its danger levels starting from green, blue, red and black. Black signifies the road is highly dangerous.

After classifying the roads, colour-coded signs are put up to warn motorists.

Mr Tay said: "It may be useful to look into this and see whether we can learn something from this IRAP."

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