Based on readers' feedback, it appears that Singapore drivers do have a multitude of bad habits on the road
A nation of bad drivers? ILLUSTRATION: ADAM LEE

It is a topic that has been driving motorists car-azy for the longest time - the bad driving of Singaporeans.

Debate revved up last week after the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam put up a Facebook post last Monday with examples of bad driving he had noticed while being driven by his wife.

They included changing lanes without signalling and speeding up to prevent a fellow motorist from changing lanes. He concluded by asking: "I wonder if it is the case that we are simply noticing this more, or if indeed our driving habits have become worse."

Singaporeans were quick to agree and vent about their own brushes with motor menaces. By presstime, the post had garnered about 380 likes and 365 comments.

And when SundayLife! conducted an informal online poll on whether Singaporeans are bad drivers, the responses came fast and furious - more than 50 tweets and about 30 comments on The Straits Times' Facebook page.

IT consultant Daniel Koh, 30, and undergraduate Nicholas Woo, 24, who drive daily, were among many who listed these two pet peeves: changing lanes without signalling or changing lanes abruptly.

"I observe this the most on expressways," says Mr Koh. "Even if they signal, they mostly do it only when half the car is already encroaching on the adjacent lane."

Mr Woo concurs: "Impatient drivers on the expressway will abruptly change lane to be faster by just one minute."

Expatriatess such as Briton Peter Hone, 49, also agree that drivers here generally have poor driving etiquette.

The engineer, who has been here since 2006 and now rides a motorbike, says: "The standard of driving here is atrocious. Driving here is done on a selfish basis: 'I need to get where I am going regardless of anyone else.'"

Frenchwoman and full-time mother Marie-Charlotte Brandon, 31, usually commutes by bus or taxi. She notes: "Singapore drivers appear casual but their aggression pops up if another driver gets in their way. If someone wants to come into their lane, they'll make sure it doesn't happen."

SundayLife! takes a look at the 10 worst driving habits of Singaporeans, based on readers' feedback.

Motoring expert Associate Professor Gopinath Menon of Nanyang Technological University may have the best advice of all.

He says: "Singaporean drivers need to be more patient and courteous. How much time can they save? Urban driving can be stressful, so it's much more pleasant if you're courteous."

USING MOBILE PHONES WHILE DRIVING

You say

We often see it in popular TV shows such as 24 (2001-2010): drivers who chatter away on their mobile phones while driving at top speed with no problems. In real life, using your mobile phone while driving carries a penalty of 12 demerit points. You may also be charged in court, fined $1,000, disqualified from driving or even go to jail for six months.

And it is a pet peeve for motorists such as real estate agent Roland Seow, 56: "Sometimes, you can't guess whether they are making a turn or not. This might cause me to have an accident."

The experts say

Assistant manager of the Singapore Safety Driving Centre Gerard Pereira, who often sees drivers making turns while on the phone, says: "In order to drive while texting, you have to look up and down and that distracts you. Just imagine closing your eyes for a few seconds while driving and see what happens."

SPEEDING UP WHEN SOMEONE SIGNALS

You say

You want to filter left and signal early. The way is clear and you are ready to go. Then the car on your left that was 50m behind speeds up to prevent you from changing lanes. Sometimes, it even forces you to swerve back into your lane.

Says driver Crispian Wong, 34: "Once I signal, the car next to me will somehow immediately speed up to block me from changing lanes."

Mr Wong, who is currently in between jobs but drives daily, adds that he sees this phenomenon every day during morning and evening rush hour.

The experts say

Prof Menon can empathise with the frustration that motorists such as Mr Wong feel. He says: "It's a very annoying habit in Singapore and breeds another equally bad habit: not signalling when changing lanes."

WEAVING IN AND OUT OF TRAFFIC

You say

Ms Josephine Koh, 44, does not drive but commutes on a daily basis by car and bus. She often sees the "random changing of lanes and weaving in and out of traffic". The stay-at-home mother-of-two says: "This behaviour is inconsiderate as it confuses other drivers behind them."

But she reckons that drivers here are still better than their regional counterparts: "Cities in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam have very inconsiderate drivers too, as the infrastructure can be very haphazard, or people can't be bothered with the rules."

The experts say

According Mr Pereira, this is one of the most dangerous driving habits: "It's a habit of the driver who wants to be in front, but he causes other drivers to misread his intentions. He gets away scot-free, but causes accidents behind him."

STRADDLING TWO LANES

You say

Not everybody in Singapore seems to think that drivers should stay in their lane, if you talk to motorists such as tennis coach Alex Sng, 33. Mr Sng, who has been driving for a decade, notes: "I've seen lane-straddling everywhere, from small roads and lanes to expressways. "It's frustrating because these drivers make it difficult for others to anticipate what they are doing next or to overtake them, which is dangerous."

The experts say

Prof Menon, who reckons this is more of a problem with motorcyles rather than cars, notes: "Our lane markings are very good, so there's no reason to straddle two lanes."

For Mr Pereira, this habit is down to poor driving skills: "The driver doesn't know how to stay in his lane."

CHANGING LANES WITHOUT SIGNALLING

You say

This had the most gripes among SundayLife! readers.

Photographer Joel Lim, 28, has been driving on a daily basis for three years and says: "Drivers change lanes suddenly or come perilously close to my car. This forces me to either change lanes suddenly if they are in front of me, or brake hard to avoid them swerving into me. When I sound my horn at them, they stare at me and give me the 'I've got the right of way' look.

"There are also those who signal and immediately change lanes, not caring if the car on the other side notices."

The experts say

Mr Pereira notes that "this is dangerous because you do not inform the other motorists of your intentions, and that's where accidents occur". He adds: "When we do our theory lectures, we always tell our students: just because you signal, it doesn't mean you have the right of way. It's simply to indicate your intentions."

Assoc Prof Menon also notes that this phenomenon is often in response to other drivers' bad behaviour: "This is the result of 'when I signal, people don't give way'."

CUTTING QUEUE ON THE EXPRESSWAY

You say

It is a familiar sight to those who drive at peak hours. Everyone is stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and crawling along - and still, the odd motorist will insist on cutting into your lane, then back into his, then into yours, all in a bid to get to the front of the queue.

Navy regular Shawn Ang, 27, who commutes to work in Changi, has seen his fair share of motorists trying to cut into his lane. He says: "If I'm in a hurry, I will be stuck close to the guy in front. It annoys me, but it doesn't happen too often. I'm quite an aggressive driver. If someone is trying to be funny with me, I won't tolerate it. Drivers in Singapore just have very poor situational awareness and they are very impatient too. I see drivers who don't know what's going on every day."

The experts say

Mr Pereira says: "The best thing to do on the expressway is to stay in the centre lane. It's usually impatient and inconsiderate drivers who cut in. They are constantly moving into the lane that they think is the fastest."

WAITING TOO LONG TO CHANGE LANES

You say

The flip side of drivers who do not signal their intentions: motorists who flick on the signal lights - then take an eternity to filter into your lane. And they are the bane of drivers such as engineer Brauns Teo, 31, who cannot stand "indecisive drivers".

"It's dangerous because you can't read their intentions and you don't know if they are aware of what's going on around them," says Mr Teo, who reckons that drivers here generally have poor awareness of their surroundings and do not check their rear-view mirrors often enough.

The experts say

Mr Pereira says that "this is down to the experience of the driver, as he is not sure if he can go in or not. Or he may have forgotten his signal is on. This confuses other drivers because they start to slow down. These drivers are dangerous because they don't know what they're doing."

TAILGATING

You say

Mr Alex Toh, 30, drives to his workplace in Changi almost every day. And he often encounters motorists on the expressway who fail to keep a proper distance from his vehicle. "Tailgating is a terrible habit," says Mr Toh, who works as an in-house legal counsel. "They put a lot of pressure on you to either give way or speed up. If I feel it's going to result in an accident, I'll give way."

The experts say

Prof Menon notes: "These motorists are not giving space because they are worried that people will come into their path. But chain collisions have happened on the expressway because of this."

HOGGING THE RIGHT LANE ON THE EXPRESSWAY

You say

Banker Mark Tan, 32, commutes to work in the Central Business District via the expressway every day and says he often sees drivers hogging the right-most, or overtaking, lane.

"Sometimes, even when there is an ambulance, it takes a while for drivers to give way to it," says Mr Tan. "If the other lanes are free, I don't see why people stay in the right lane if they are not travelling fast."

He reckons that the driving culture here has something to do with the price of cars: "If you can afford one, you are relatively well off, so you think you have the right to do whatever you want on the road."

The experts say

Mr Pereira notes: "We tell our students that the extreme right lane, or lane number one, is only for emergency vehicles and overtaking vehicles. By right, no one should be in the right-most lane. A person who hogs the right lane can cause an accident because the driver behind may be impatient and overtake suddenly."

NOT GIVING WAY TO MOTORCYCLISTS/ CYCLISTS

You say

At least once every other day, motorcyclist Muhammad Russhairyn, 22, encounters cars that get right in his face. "Drivers often signal their intentions to switch lanes and then do so right after that even if I am close to them," says the undergraduate, who rides to and from campus daily.

He adds: "This is dangerous, especially on roads which have a higher speed limit and when the drivers do it without proper signalling. In some situations the sudden movement might cause the motorcyclist to lose control of his vehicle."

The experts say

Prof Menon agrees that there is often a disregard for smaller vehicles on the road: "Drivers don't look after those who are more vulnerable on the road, such as motorcyclists and cyclists."

According to statistics from the Singapore Police Force, motorcyclists and their pillion riders accounted for about half the total number of fatalities last year. In fact, of the 197 fatalities from traffic accidents last year, 99 involved motorcyclists and their pillion riders, an increase of 11.2 per cent from the 89 fatalities in 2010.