8 Top driving mistakes by local drivers
Road safety has never been so important, especially in a city as densely populated and busy as Singapore where road accidents happen on a daily basis and are almost always caused by driver recklessness or carelessness. There has been an increase in the number of people injured or killed in road accidents so far this year, as accidents with injuries or deaths rose to 4,552 from 2,998 between June and September 2021, according to the latest numbers provided by the Singapore Police Force (SPF). In fact, Singapore’s road fatality rate of 2.73 per 100,000 citizens is higher than London, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Even the most experienced drivers may make mistakes behind the wheel, whether due to lack of awareness of their bad driving habits, getting distracted or having or a sense of complacency that accidents won't happen to them. Here’s a list of 8 most common mistakes made by local drivers to avoid.
8. Hogging the Fast Lane
Many drivers have experienced the annoyance at being stuck behind a vehicle puttering in the rightmost fast lane on a highway at a speed way below the speed limit, as though blissfully unaware of the line of drivers in a rush behind it. Known as road-hogging, not only is it inconsiderate behaviour, is actually a traffic offence: Vehicles with speed limit of < 60km/h failing to drive on the left-hand lane of expressway (except when overtaking another vehicle or passing an obstruction or in compliance with any traffic or directional sign), and vehicles at slow speed failing to keep as close to the left-hand side of the road as possible will get a maximum of $1,000 and/or 3 months jail for first-time offenders. Vehicles obstructing other vehicles moving at a faster speed will be fined a maximum of $1,000 and/or 3 months jail, with 4 demerit points for first-time offenders. It is an offence precisely due to the obstruction of traffic flow and danger it poses to others as an accident may happen if impatient drivers stuck behind the road hogger attempt to overtake in the slower left lanes. All drivers should remember that the lanes to the right are for faster moving vehicles overtaking and the lanes on the left are for slower driving cars.
7. Trying to “Beat” Amber Lights
Amber lights are a signal to “Slow Down” but many drivers are tempted to take it as a challenge or invitation to “Speed Up”, causing horrific collision accidents as a result especially at intersections. Unfortunately, many motorists misjudge the timing and distance while racing towards the traffic lights and inadvertently run red traffic lights in the process. Besides being very dangerous and reckless driving, running red lights will incur heavy penalties in Singapore: a motorist who runs a red light faces 12-demerit point offence when committed outside a Silver Zone and school zone, will incur 14 demerit points when committed in the zones. Would you rather save the measly 30 seconds you would have spent waiting at the traffic light, or risk a heavy fine or even a potentially T-bone collision?
6. Abruptly Jamming Brakes
Very often, when motorists meet with unexpected or amiss on the roads their first instinct would be to immediately jam their brakes and come to an abrupt stop on the road. However, in stopping their vehicle so suddenly, this actually poses dangers to others on the road. Drivers behind you who are not careful or who were driving too closely to react quickly enough would likely come to a rear collision with your vehicle or even swerve to the next lane to avoid the collision, endangering cars on that lane. The best way to avoid a collision is to slow down instead of stopping completely, to allow you to react more carefully in consideration of your surroundings without risk to others.
5. Not using Signals
While enclosed in these steel boxes on wheels, turn signals are one of the few tools we have to communicate our intentions with other drivers on the road to ensure smooth, safe and predictable traffic flow. Always use your turn signal before and while changing lanes or turning a corner to give other drivers around you a heads-up. Just as importantly, remember to turn off the signal once you are done changing lanes or turning as there is nothing more confusing, or frustrating than to drive around a car who takes forever to make a move despite repeatedly signalling. Save others from anxiety and use your turn signals appropriately to make your intentions known clearly.
4. Leaving High Beam On
Although it is almost always unintentional, leaving the high beam light on at night is not safe as it can blind drivers facing your vehicle and distract motorists. Only use your high beams on roads or road bends with no street lights at night, or for increased visibility if the road is dangerous and you are in a hazardous driving environment with heavy rain, fog, snow, or an oncoming vehicle. In the higher-density traffic and lower speeds of urban and suburban streets, the low-beam setting is sufficient without blinding others. Check your dashboard if your high beams indicators e.g. a blue light is on, as it is possible for drivers to accidentally hit their high beam lever while driving.
3. Driving while Distracted
It is extremely common to see drivers glancing at the GPS map on their phone screens while navigating the roads, or worse still, using one hand to toggle the screen to read a message while driving slowly and unfocused. Multi-tasking is a skill best left for the workplace or housework, not on the roads where 100% focus is needed, no matter how confident you are in your abilities. Contrary to popular belief, humans have limited attention span so while it doesn’t feel dangerous to take your eyes away from the road for a second, the results of many studies prove otherwise. Research has shown that when drivers were engaged in activities like conversation, drivers paid less attention to the visual surroundings, despite being able to see normally. Shockingly, although the drivers were still looking at the road, the distraction caused them to be less able to perceive it clearly. In another study, drivers on their phones were much more likely to get into accidents than the drunk drivers. Again and again, studies have shown that activities like using a hands-held phone, handsfree phone, texting, being deep in thought or having conversation are huge impairments to safe driving, yet many people continue doing so thinking they are the exception – in fact, about three-quarters of US drivers thought their overall skills were better than average which is impossible! In an environment where every millisecond of reaction time is the difference between life and death, this is clearly unacceptable.
According to the Traffic Police, speeding violations numbers had a spike of 16.4% to 183,059 cases in 2019, as compared to the 157,312 cases in 2018. Speeding is a lot more than most drivers think, claiming more than twice as many lives on the roads as drink-driving In 2019. Besides the obvious increased risk of crashing and losing control of the vehicle, speeding causes more serious injury. For example, at high speed the impact may cause serious internal injuries to passengers and seat belts may cause injury while protecting the passengers. Furthermore, other motorists will have drastically less time to react to the speeding car, causing fatal accidents to happen.
1. Not Adjusting the mirrors properly
It is extremely important to adjust your rear and side mirrors into the correct position before driving, as doing so would allow you to sufficiently see the vehicles behind and change lanes safely. You should always make sure the lane next to you is clear before changing into that lane, so ensure you adjust the side mirrors out such that the doors of your car are not visible and reduce as much blind spot as possible. Being aware of surroundings, and most importantly having the widest field of vision, is indispensable to safe driving.
Driving is undoubtedly a convenience and even a pleasant experience. However, we should always remember it is a privilege and be considerate to others while prioritising safety for all.