Are you sure you know how to drive safely? Here are some best practices.
Driving in Singapore is generally quite safe, and our road fatality rate (2.73 deaths per 100,000 people) is among the lowest in the world. But the recent Tanjong Pagar crash in February reignited a national debate over driving practices and road safety, and for good reason––no matter how low the numbers, no one wants to end up as a statistic.
It’s all too easy for drivers to forget best practices, or become complacent after having been behind the wheel for a while, so we’ve put together a bumper list of best practices for safe driving. Most of these fall under what’s classified as ‘defensive driving,’ where you assume that everyone else on the road is a new driver and bound to make mistakes––this is by far the best way to stay on your toes and not fall into complacency. After all, humans are pretty unpredictable!
Whether you’re a new or experienced driver, we hope this helps!
1. Buckle up.
Can you believe there was a time when people actually opposed seat belts? That was as recent as the 1980s, and while it’s more or less unthinkable now, it’s easy to forget if you don’t make it a habit. Many accidents and deaths can be prevented simply by wearing a seat belt, and they’ll reduce your risk of serious injury by 50%. That’s no small thing.
All passengers, including those in the backseat, should buckle up. If you’re driving and wearing a seat belt, why wouldn’t you make sure your friends or kids in the back seat are, too? It’s easy to brush it off when you’re just driving short distances, but anything could happen in that time frame.
Not the app, the car signals! Use these early and often when you’re driving. Think about it––it sucks when the car in front of you changes lanes without warning, because you’re not clairvoyant and can’t predict when they’re going to do that. So don’t assume other people know what you’re doing, either.
Also, if you don’t have to change lanes, don’t. It’s not like cycling where you can sometimes slalom in and around people (okay, try not to do that either). Unfortunately, real life is not like The Fast and the Furious. (Nobody ever signals in the movies.) Unless you’re trying to escape some bad guys, stay in your lane and only switch when necessary.
3. Don’t hog the right lane
There’s a special place in hell for drivers who cruise along the right lane at half the speed limit while holding up all the cars behind. Don’t be that person. If you’re having a relaxed driving day, just stay out of the right lane.
4. Keep to the middle lane
We get it: the expressway is a scary place for newer drivers, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the roads and multiple exits. For example, switching lanes on the Central Expressway (CTE) is a minefield––sometimes you drive too slowly because you don’t want to miss the exit, or you end up drifting from the right lane all the way to the left in a frantic attempt to take the right exit. Both are recipes for disaster.
The solution? Keep to the middle lane and drive at a moderate speed. Gautama Buddha might have been talking about the path to enlightenment, but the Middle Way probably applies just as well to driving.
5. Don’t tailgate
Nobody likes being followed, especially at a close distance. If you’re driving too close behind another car, you won’t have enough time to brake if something unexpected happens. Rear-end collisions aren’t fun for anyone, and if you can’t settle it with the driver on the day––contrary to popular belief, the rear car is not always to blame––your respective insurance companies might even have to take it to court.
In short, keep a safe distance from the car in front of you. The rule of thumb is that you should be able to count two seconds before your car kisses the bumper of the vehicle ahead. Obviously, if it’s raining or you’re driving behind a massive truck full of chickens, make it a bigger buffer.
What if you’re the one being tailgated? In this scenario, double the amount of space between your car, and the car ahead of yours. Then, carefully and slowly move into a right hand lane, and let the tailgater go ahead of you. Don’t be kiasu––it’s not worth it. Letting it go won’t impact your day, but not yielding might cost you a lot more.
6. Don’t speed.
Like we said above, real life is not The Fast and the Furious. Speed limits exist for a reason––unnecessary speeding not only accounts for more accidents and deaths, depending on exactly how fast you were going, you’ll also be slapped with fines and up to 24 demerit points. You might even have your license suspended, and getting it back will be a real pain.
Speeding kills. Unless a loved one is bleeding to death in the back seat (in which case, please ignore us), getting somewhere a little bit faster isn’t worth the odds. But if you absolutely need to speed, try go-karting. It’s more fun than you might think!
(Also, loudly revving your engine to zoom half a kilometre before the next traffic light is just, well, silly. Don’t be that asshole.)
7. Slow down on amber, stop on red
Most of us have probably been guilty of this, but the amber light is not a challenge to speed up and beat the red light. We have an odd propensity towards this particular traffic violation––it’s the only traffic statistic that’s actually increasing (most recent statistics point to an increase of 2.6% in 2018 compared to the previous year).
Running a red light might seem fairly harmless, but it’s pretty damn irresponsible, especially if there are motorists, pedestrians, or cyclists around. If that isn’t enough incentive to not run a red light, you could face a $200 fine and 12 demerit points. Totally not worth it, especially if you’re a new driver.
8. Watch out for vulnerable road users
By that token, keep an eye out for other road users. Cyclists and motorists are particularly vulnerable on the road because they don’t have several tonnes of metal protecting them from other vehicles. A little patience when pedestrians––especially the elderly––are crossing the road will also go a long way.
9. Monitor your blind spots
Checking your blind spot is so Driving School 101, but it’s one of the most important things you can do while driving. It’s especially true for short drivers: the distances that shorter drivers cannot see behind the car doubles compared to drivers of average height.
Don’t underestimate checking your blind spot––it might be the one thing that helps you avoid an accident one day. Anyone who laughs at you for being a ‘noob’ driver and checking your blind spot is an asshole.
10. Drive carefully, especially in bad weather