Saturday, 9 March 2013

Making Singapore roads safer

By Hetty Musfirah, Channel NewsAsia, 7 Mar 2013

A slew of measures has been announced to make Singapore roads safer, among them a stiffer penalty for traffic offences near schools.

The measures, under a comprehensive strategy known as "Safer Roads Singapore", were announced by Second Home Affairs Minister S Iswaran in Parliament on Thursday.

The measures also include an enhanced licensing regime for motorcyclists, who account for about half of all road fatalities in Singapore. 

Last year, there were about three accidents a day involving motorcycles on the expressways.

To address this, the Expressway Familiarisation Ride course will be made compulsory from June this year for those who are obtaining a Class 2B motorcycle licence.

The course was introduced in December 2010 but has only been offered as an option. It teaches riders how to enter or exit the expressways, change lanes or overtake, all under the supervision of instructors.

Mr Iswaran hopes the move will enhance road safety for motorcyclists. 

"Riders who have taken the course over the past two years were found to be significantly less likely to be involved in accidents on expressways. By making the course compulsory, we hope to reduce the number of accidents involving motorcycles on expressways," he said.

The Traffic Police will also introduce a new Safe Driving Course to encourage safe driving on roads.

Currently, drivers can chalk up a maximum of 24 demerit points.

Offenders who have accumulated 12 or more can voluntarily sign up for the course to correct their road habits early.

Three demerit points will be deducted from their record if they pass the course.

The Traffic Police will also revise the retraining course for motorists facing their first or second suspension so that it will have a more comprehensive curriculum and stricter passing standards.

Mr Iswaran said the enhancements to the corrective education regime will be implemented by the end of the year.

He said road safety in Singapore has generally improved.

Road fatality rate has dropped by more than 50 per cent over the last two decades, and compares favourably with other countries.

But dangerous offences like speeding and running the red light have been rising.

At the end of this year, laws will be amended for such offences committed near schools.

Offenders will face stiffer penalty. For example, those who run a red light will be slapped with 13 demerit points, instead of 12.

This means a new driver who is on probation will have his licence revoked if he is caught for such an offence.

Enforcement efforts will also be stepped up.

By year's end, there will be 50 per cent more patrol officers on the roads compared with the current 140. Auxiliary Police Officers will also be deployed to assist with enforcement.

And by the end of next year, 300 speed and red light digital cameras will be installed at various locations to make it easier to detect violations and identify offenders more quickly.

Mr Iswaran said: "Safer Roads Singapore is a comprehensive strategy to improve road safety by changing the norms of road use. Traffic Police will be firm and fair in enforcing traffic rules. We will also intensify our upstream education and engagement efforts to inculcate the right mindsets, habits and skills for safer road use."

As for heavy vehicles, there are plans to tighten the existing speed limiter regime by introducing additional inspection requirements for those caught speeding.

Mr Iswaran said more will be done to engage industry stakeholders such as owners of heavy vehicle fleets and interests groups such as motorcycling enthusiasts clubs.

The Road Safety Champions programme will also be expanded to the wider motoring community, including logistics companies and fast food delivery companies.

Under the programme, the Traffic Police identify and train supervisors and managers as Road Safety Champions.

More outreach efforts will be done to educate the young on road safety especially pre-schoolers and lower-primary students.

The inaugural Road Safety Month in May this year will have a focus on road safety for senior citizens.

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