SINGAPORE - In just the first two months of this year, 14 people were reported to have been killed in traffic accidents.
Just how bad is this?
Last year, in the same period, there were four reported fatalities and in 2011, five.
These figures are based on media reports as there are no official monthly figures.
A police spokesman said that traffic accident statistics are compiled annually.
Of the 14 reported deaths, six involved motorcyclists and cyclists.
Among them were two young brothers who were killed in Tampines after a cement mixer truck hit their bicycle at a traffic junction in January.
Their deaths struck a chord among many Singaporeans, who asked whether our roads could be made safer, especially for vulnerable road users such as the young and the elderly.
The boys' father, Mr Francis Yap, 39, later said, addressing the truck driver: "I only have two kids. It's your mistake. I have to suffer."
Losing loved ones
His sorrow, expressed in three short, but emotionally charged sentences, would have been shared by anyone who has lost a loved one on the roads.
Mr Yap then made a simple plea to drivers: Drive carefully and drive responsibly.
That six of the 14 deaths involved heavy vehicles such as lorries and buses raises the question: Are heavy vehicles to blame?
A transport researcher, Associate Professor Lee Der Horng of the National University of Singapore (NUS), thinks so, saying drivers of heavy vehicles may have blind spots.
But Professor Chin Hoong Choor from the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in NUS disagreed, saying there are not many heavy vehicles to start with.
So is it the roads? Are some roads more dangerous than others?
A Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesman said that accident-prone locations are denoted as "black spots".
"The Black Spot programme aims to target locations with high incidents of traffic accidents, and makes use of road engineering schemes to reduce the number of accidents and severities with the appropriate treatments," the spokesman said.
For example, when a location is identified as such, LTA will implement measures such as installing a controlled right-turn traffic light signal.
A Straits Times report last month listed several areas that have had more than 15 accidents resulting in injury or death in the past three years.
So why have fatalities shot up so dramatically over the last two months?
Prof Chin said that drivers tend to be "lulled into a sense of complacency" as vehicles nowadays are fitted with many safety gadgets.
Prof Lee said: "In the past few years, the increase in traffic flow means more exposure for drivers and road users. Their exposure to accidents and hazardous environments also increases."
LTA statistics show an increase in the motor vehicle population, from 956,704 in 2011 to 969,910 last year.
Prof Chin said: "Accidents are rare occurrences and their numbers fluctuate."
Traffic Police statistics show there were 169 fatalities last year, down 13.3 per cent from 2011.
So how do you make the roads safer?
"The most obvious is educating road users," said Prof Chin.
Prof Lee agreed, saying that even though public education is old-fashioned, it is one of the most effective ways to teach people about road safety.
They both agree that situational awareness is key to preventing accidents.
"If you know of the existence of the other party, it will increase safety," Prof Lee said.
Members of Parliament have been calling for action to make our roads safer, such as for heavy vehicles to be kept away from residential areas, especially those near schools or which have many pedestrians.
Second Minister for Home Affairs & Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said that heavier penalties for errant road users in school zones are in the works.
Specifically, he said that more speed cameras and red-light cameras will be installed to discourage drivers from speeding or beating red lights.
There are also plans to deploy strategically placed police laser cameras on roads where heavy vehicles typically ply.
Perhaps no one is better placed to give advice on road safety than motorcyclist Muhammad Farhan Yusof, 24, who lost half of his right leg in an accident with a bus last May.
Despite his accident, he is now taking lessons to get his driving licence for the handicapped.
He has a simple message for road users: Be alert and careful on the roads. "My friends know me as someone who rides slow and steady. But we still cannot guarantee that accidents won't happen," he said. "Everyone needs to focus. We all have a part to play in road safety."
Deadly accidents this year
- Feb 26: A 25-year-old man died after his motorbike collided with a tipper truck on Banyan Drive on Jurong Island.
- Feb 25: Mr Lim Poh Wah, 29, died on his first day on the job. He was delivering documents when he fell off his motorbike after a near collision with a taxi. A black Volvo then ran over him.
A man died after the Lexus he was driving mounted a kerb, hit a road sign and slammed into a tree in Tuas.
A Mercedes-Benz driven by Mr Leong Kong Yon, 67, skidded and hit the centre divider on the East Coast Parkway, off the Siglap Road exit. He died shortly after.
- Feb 24: Father of four Lim Guang Chin, 34, died when his motorcycle collided with a bus on the Tampines Expressway (TPE) around midnight.
A 55-year-old man died on the same stretch of the TPE just an hour before Mr Lim's accident. He was hit by a car while trying to get back to his vehicle after alighting to ease himself.
- Feb 20: Mr Noor Azhar Haji Tamron, 33, died after his car mounted a kerb and hit a tree on Simei Street 1.
A 59-year old van driver died after his vehicle struck a barrier on the Ayer Rajah Expressway.
- Feb 19: A Bangladeshi cyclist was killed after he was run over by a bus on Jurong Pier Road.
- Feb 3: A 55-year-old container truck driver was killed after the 12m-long container got dislodged when he made a sharp turn within PSA's terminal, and smashed into the driver's cabin.
- Jan 28: Brothers Nigel and Donavan Yap, aged 13 and seven, were killed after they were hit by a cement mixer truck while crossing a traffic light junction in Tampines.
- Jan 10: A driver, believed to be in his 30s, was killed when his Kia Forte skidded and crashed into a tree on Boon Lay Way.
- Jan 2: A woman in her 60s died in hospital after she and her grandson were hit by a school bus on Jalan Bahar in Jurong West. The boy, 6, suffered a fractured right leg.
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