Laws are not enough

Laws are not enough
Distracted: A motorist seen using his phone while driving along Toa Payoh North in a picture taken in April last year.

SINGAPORE - When a road safety expert says he is concerned by bad habits on the road, you should worry too.

Mr Gerard Pereira said he notices more drivers using their mobile phones while driving.

Mr Pereira, 57, a road safety expert who is also the operations manager at the Singapore Safety Driving Centre said: "More people are getting distracted by their mobile devices and not paying attention to what is ahead of them, which is why I think the proposed legislation is a good thing."

Mr Pereira is referring to the proposed changes to the Road Traffic Act tabled in Parliament on Monday.

Among other things, the changes include making it an offence to hold and operate any functions of mobile phones and tablet devices while driving.

This would mean that checking of e-mails or social media accounts while driving will also be an offence if the amendments to the law are passed.

It is already an offence to hold a mobile phone to text or make a call while driving.

In a statement released to the media, a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spokesman said that under the proposed amendments, the offence would apply if the person "is holding a mobile communication device, which would include mobile telephones and tablet devices, in at least one hand, and operates any function of the device while driving".

Effective 'deterrent'

Mr Pereira believes the changes "would make it easier for the authorities" to clamp down on such activities and can act as an effective "deterrent".

The issue of distracted drivers is an increasing problem, and not just here.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States recently conducted a survey which found that talking, texting, and reading email behind the wheel is a rising problem in the country.

In the US, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011 compared to the 3,267 deaths in the previous year.

When contacted, Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC Ang Hin Kee said the proposed changes come at a time when there is an "increasing number of drivers caught in the act".

According to the latest Traffic Police figures, the number of summonses issued to motorists using their mobile phones while driving has increased over the years, from 2,938 in 2012 to 3,572 last year.

In 2011, that number stood at 2,817.

In the first six months of this year, 1,761 of such summonses were issued by the Traffic Police.

Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Seng Han Thong said the aim of the proposal is to refine the law to "enhance the safety of all road users".

Mr Seng, who is also the deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, added: "The aim of the new rules serve as a healthy reminder that this habit of many is a dangerous thing."

However, Mr Ang, who is also in the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Transport, said laws alone cannot solve this problem.

He added: "Education must also play a part in deterring this, not just legislation alone.

"However, both initiatives must also work in tandem with one another to drive the point to both drivers and pedestrians alike.".

The drivers TNP spoke to also agreed.

Of 20 motorists interviewed at Toa Payoh, nearly all welcomed the proposed laws.

Mr Louis Ng, a 39-year-old hospitality manager, said: "It is timely, there are times I see people so engrossed with their phones they forget about the other road users.

"We need laws against this, education would also remind these people that they are ultimately endangering other road users too."

However, one driver who wanted to being identified only as Mr Tan, thought of the proposed laws as "unnecessary" since "drivers already know that using your phone when driving is not allowed".

This article was first published on August 06, 2014.
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