Today, I drove to the West and back to the East through heavy rain, and along the way, I saw accidents, and reckless and inconsiderate driving behaviour. Honestly, I don’t think speeding in general is the main cause of traffic accidents. The main cause of accidents should be attributed to two causes: 1) inexperienced driving, and 2) inconsiderate and reckless driving behaviour.
Although I can say that it is not easy to pass the practical driving test in Singapore, I sincerely believe that the difficultly is misplaced or mis-emphasised. To pass the practical test, a candidate must not accumulate more than 18 “penalty” points, and these points are awarded based on the severity of the mistake committed, ranging from 2 to 4 points, and a special category of instant failure. There is a very great emphasis on performing routine checks and observations within the vehicle for safety, i.e., moving your head when looking at the rear-view mirror, followed by the side-mirror, and then turning your head 90º to check your blind-spot. This is entirely unnatural and drivers will avoid doing it when they actually pass their driving tests.
What needs to be tested is not the action but the reaction to the observation of danger. How will you react when faced with a contingency situation? Is safety a primary motivation for your reaction, or just reacting without consideration?
For example, when faced with a vehicle breaking ahead, some drivers switch lanes without checking for traffic in the adjacent lane, while others have to jam brake and subsequently increase the safety distance. While both reactions are non-ideal, the latter reaction will result in less accidents as the third party involved (the car behind) would have greater reaction time than in the former case (3rd party: driver in adjacent lane).
The practical driving test in Singapore should be split into 2 practical tests. The first, being the vehicle technical handling test, while the second, taken approximately 1 year after passing the first, is an experience and competence test. Passing the first test gives candidates a “provisional” license that will expire 2 years after passing the first test. Provisional licence holders will require the “p-plate” to be displayed at all times and will only have 12 merit points available for deduction.
To convert the provisional license to a full license, provisional drivers will be required to pass the second test before the expiry of the provisional license but not earlier than 1 year from passing date. Should they not be able to pass the second test before the expiry of the provisional license, an extension of 1 year should be granted upon proof of a future booking for the test.
In the second test, the technical capabilities of the candidates are a prerequisite and assumed. Thus, the test can focus more on interactions between other road users in areas once inaccessible in the previous test, such as expressways and other crowded areas.
This way, competence and experience of drivers who actually have a full license will be ensured. People who “just happened to pass” will be forced to drive with a “p-plate” until they can past the second test, for the safety of everyone else.
Inconsiderate and Reckless Driving
It was pouring heavily and it was dark. Yet, there still are drivers that weave in and out of traffic, without their headlights and without signalling.
Exasperating! Exterior lights on a vehicle are for increasing visibility to other road users, not as christmas tree decorations. The significant increase in safety from turning on exterior lights greatly trumps the marginal increase in fuel consumption. For everyone’s safety, please, if the lighting conditions are poorer than a regular fine day, just turn on exterior lights. It’ll be easier to spot you from my side mirrors.
As for signalling, I understand that you may not want to signal when changing lanes on an empty road, but it’s no excuse when cars are tightly packed. That little flick of 3 fingers to signal while changing lanes can actually reduce accidents and save lives.
So, it’s no surprise that whenever it rains any tiny or heavy bit, there will bound to be accidents along our expressways. Until driving habits and graciousness can be improved, we can expect more accidents ahead, whenever road conditions deteriorate a single bit.