Recently, newspapers have been awash with the case of dangerous driving in Australia where 5 fresh graduates met with a severe accident, landing 2 of them in Intensive Care Unit (ICU). This is eerily similar to another incident in New Zealand in 2015, when 2 young Singaporeans were involved in a fatal accident, resulting in the death of a motorcyclist and again in 2014 with another accident caused by a young Singaporean overseas.
It would seem that Singaporeans are one of the safest drivers with one of the lowest car crash fatality rates in the world due to a combination of stringent traffic laws (complete with the infamous fines) and a mandatory driving test. Students have to undergo two theory tests and one practical test with students attempting to navigate an obstacle course and real life situations. Even after passing the test, young drivers have to ensure that they do not commit any driving misdemeanors or risk having their license being revoked. Combined together, it creates the environment for safe, responsible drivers.
Yet, driving overseas presents a different challenge.
Firstly, Singapore’s compact size and high population density has placed a higher premium on public transportation as opposed to private car ownership. Numerous woes of driving include high petrol prices, ERP charges and lack of parking spaces, adding to the general disinclination towards driving. This is backed up by the network of public transportation that boasts strong, efficient infrastructure, affordability and permeability to almost the entirety of Singapore. By the virtue of its public transportation, Singapore itself is unique. In other countries, their vast expanse of land and far-flung places means that driving long distances is commonplace with car journeys stretching several hours. In Singapore, one can get from one end of the island to the other in about 1 hour. Driving becomes a privilege rather than a necessity. Young drivers (myself included) thus rarely have the chance or the experience to drive long distances that often takes place on road trips in other countries.
Secondly, travelling with friends on road trips often entails some of additional peer pressure to travel faster. Though not explicitly voiced, there is a subtle urge to travel quickly in order to reach the destination in time. This may be my interpretation from my own experience of driving overseas and being driven by my friends. There is a thrill of speeding down the highways and along endless straight roads, watching the scenery flash by and the excitement of getting closer to your destination. Yet on hindsight, there were also several split-second moments where either my friends or myself was going a little bit too fast and I was genuinely worried of getting into an accident. Thankfully, we managed to arrive safely.
Every time a person steps behind the wheel, they become not only responsible for the lives of their passengers but also the people around them. Every action taken on the road contains the potential to derail the course of someone’s life. As drivers, we should all feel the weight of this responsibility and take it seriously. And as passengers, a casual reminder to your friends to drive a bit slower might make all the difference.
Featured Image: buzzfeed.com