The Traffic Police, Land Transport Authority and National Environment Agency should join hands to improve their enforcement efforts
Combined Forces PHOTO: TORQUE

Too bad that a proposal to merge the Traffic Police (TP) with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) never materialised. The plan, made about 10 years ago, was scuttled at the eleventh hour - for reasons that are still unknown. Imagine the efficiency and scope that such a merged entity would have had on enforcement efforts. Today, both bodies are strapped for manpower and struggling to cope with Singapore's rising vehicle population, often having to outsource various enforcement tasks to external parties.

Despite the best efforts of the TP and the LTA, errant motorists still get away with parking and moving violations. The former ranks as the top complaint received by the LTA, which shows that much more can be done in the area. And the latter is becoming an increasingly worrying trend, highlighted by a number of tragic accidents in recent months. Even if the statistics do not show any spike in serious traffi c accidents,
any motorist will agree that a number of dangerous driving behaviours are a common sight these days.

One is the usage of mobile devices while driving. Despite the harsh penalties that such offences attract, many drivers are texting or putting a mobile phone to their ear while on the move. Running a red light has also become more common now. Stand at any junction not equipped with red-light cameras and you will see vehicles proceeding even well after the lights have turned red.

It is strange that the authorities have not relied more on technology to clamp down on this dangerous practice. With the latest surveillance systems, images of violators can be processed at one centralised backroom – unlike the older versions, which required manual on-site downloads to be done periodically. Today’s systems are also fairly cost-efficient, from acquisition to operation.

But back to a merger between the TP and the LTA. Such a move would have created a "multiplied" force of offi cers that can act against a wider variety of offences as they happen on the road. Currently, the division of duties allows many culprits to continue their wayward ways with impunity.

To address other frustrating onroad trends (see sidebar), the vehicular enforcement department of the National Environment Agency (NEA) should also be part of the same equation. Together with the TP and the LTA, the NEA can issue summonses to motorists who throw litter from their vehicles, as well as those who drive smoke-belching vehicles.

Smokers form a big group of litterbugs-on-wheels. Whenever you see someone dangling a cigarette out the car window, you can almost be certain that he or she would fling it nonchalantly out once it is spent.

Other items often flung out of moving vehicles include plastic bags, pieces of used tissue paper, junk mail and fl yers, drink cans, and even empty styrofoam food carriers.

Despite mandatory vehicle inspection, smoky tailpipes are still spotted everywhere. They belong almost exclusively to diesel vehicles such as taxis, buses and trucks.

Torque understands that many of their operators fill up with bootleg diesel – cheaper fuel bought from ships anchored around Singapore. Often, the diesel does not meet the Euro 4 emission standard that authorised fuel retailers have to follow. And when it is time for these "dirty" vehicles to be sent for their compulsory check-ups, the operators simply fi ll them up once with biodiesel. This, it seems, is sufficient to ensure their emissions meet regulatory standards at the point of inspection.

So, the solution is to nab offenders on the go. And the only way to do this properly is to have a sizeable force of enforcement offi cers – such as one created by a tripartite merger between the TP, the LTA and the NEA.

Those opposed to such an alliance would say the three agencies already work quite well together despite being separate entities. Even if that is true, there is no harm in them working even more closely. And the issue is not so much about the level of cooperation, but the increased effectiveness an enlarged enforcement agency can bring.

If a full-blown merger is too much to manage (as the scuttled union between the TP and the LTA seems to suggest), a permanent joint venture between the enforcement departments of the three agencies should be considered. Because, as it is today, three departments working separately is clearly ineffi cient.

If you disagree, take note the next time you are on the road. See how many journeys you can complete without spotting someone littering from a vehicle, using a handphone (sans handsfree device) while driving, at the wheel of a smoke-belching vehicle, driving carelessly (e.g. running the lights, tailgating, not giving way, and road hogging), or a vehicle with tinted windows so dark, you cannot see through them.

If you cannot spot any of the above, chances are that you yourself are too distracted for your own good.