By Ethan Lou
Global positioning system (GPS) devices, which map journeys for motorists, have gained popularity here in recent years..
But they also pose a risk of causing road accidents, say transport experts and motorists.
One 21-year-old motorist my paper spoke to admitted that he once almost ran down a pedestrian because he was distracted by a GPS device which he held in his hand. It was not his only close call.
The motorist, who declined to be named, said that he has encountered similar incidents at least three or four times over the past year.
"Once, I got lost on the road and I tried to find my location on the GPS. The motorist in front of me suddenly jammed on his brakes, and I almost crashed into his car," he said.
Transport experts my paper spoke to expressed concern over the use of GPS devices, which they view as being just as dangerous as using a mobile phone while driving.
"GPS devices can cause traffic accidents because they take your eyes off the road," said Mr Gerard Ee, chairman of the Public Transport Council.
"Not turning on the voice instruction of the GPS is like holding a mobile phone while driving.
It's just as dangerous," he added.
Stomp contributor Motor Cyclist expressed similar concerns when he made a post on citizen- journalism website Stomp last Sunday.
He wrote: "This practice is even more dangerous when such drivers speed on the expressways." The devices, which are typically mounted on the dashboards or windscreens of motor vehicles, also do more than just distract one's attention.
Undergraduate Daron Zeng, 23, narrowly avoided an accident in 2009 due to discrepancies between the map shown on his GPS device and the actual road.
"Based on the GPS, I was supposed to turn left, but there were some alterations to the road, so the GPS was not really accurate.
"I kept to the left but I was not supposed to turn into a lane. I nearly turned and almost got hit by a motorcycle," said Mr Zeng.
The Traffic Police said that accidents involving GPS devices are not tracked.
Eight motorists my paper spoke to were all for additional safety features in GPS devices.
One of them, Mr Lim Biow Chuan, vice-chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said he discovered in-built restrictions on a GPS device he used in Australia during a trip there last year.
"Once you move past a certain speed, you are not allowed to fiddle with it and re-set the destination," said Mr Lim.
This ensures that the driver can type in an address only when the car is stationary or moving slowly, he added.
Mr Lim is in favour of implementing a similar system in Singapore but he also noted that, ultimately, the issue lies with drivers.
"The concern is really drivers' attitudes, rather than anything else," he said.
For more my paper stories click here.