Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Rise in road deaths involving heavy vehicles

Increase of 37.5% contrasts with drop in all deaths from traffic accidents
By Joyce Lim, The Straits Times, 11 Feb 2014

SINGAPORE'S roads became safer for all users last year, except where it concerned heavy vehicles.

Deaths on the road fell by more than 5 per cent to 159, out of a total of 8,213 casualties, owing to greater enforcement against violations and outreach to vulnerable groups like elderly pedestrians, motorcyclists and pillion riders.

But fatalities from accidents involving heavy vehicles rose by 37.5 per cent, from 32 in 2012 to 44 last year.

At the release of its annual statistics yesterday, Commander of Traffic Police Cheang Keng Keong said traffic police officers had stepped up operations against such errant drivers.

As a result, recorded traffic violations committed by those driving heavy vehicles - defined as having an unladen weight of above 2,500kg - went up by 5.8 per cent, from 12,583 offences in 2012 to 13,318 last year.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng, who has championed heavy-vehicle road safety after two young brothers were killed by a concrete mixer in Tampines in January last year, said concern remained over the spike in figures.

He said: "One key reason could be there are more heavy vehicles on the road due to more construction works around the island. With more volume, there is a likelihood that accidents involving heavy vehicles will go up.

"It could also be that drivers are stressed to make more trips, or speed on the roads to meet the tight timelines for their projects."

Last April, Mr Baey successfully banned heavy vehicles from school zones in his constituency after he got the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to allow heavy vehicles to take expressways to get to sites in Tampines.

LTA rules bar heavy vehicles with low speed limits from using expressways, to help traffic flow and for safety reasons.

A prime mover driver who wanted to be known only as Mr Wong told The Straits Times that drivers like him are paid according to the number of trips they make in a month. They try to make more trips by driving faster, said the 38-year-old, who has been in the job for over 10 years.

On a brighter note, the number of accidents ending in death and injury continued on a downward trend that began in 2010. There were 6,426 last year, down from 7,188 in 2012.

The rate of such accidents has also fallen, from more than 74 per 10,000 vehicles in 2012, to just over 66 last year. The number of accidents involving motorcycles and elderly pedestrians has also fallen.

The Traffic Police attributed this to ongoing outreach campaigns to vulnerable groups and improved road safety features at crossings, among other things.

But a small group of "recalcitrant drivers" pose a menace to others, said Assistant Commissioner of Police Cheang.

The Traffic Police have noted an increasing trend in the number of drivers issued summonses for more than one serious moving offence.

He promised a tough stance against them. "We will be firmer with our appeals, and errant motorists can expect to be suspended and lose their licences altogether if they do not improve on their driving behaviour."

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