Between legislation and the reality of a situation, there is always a
practical interpretation of the rules. But here are five common traffic rule violations that people in Singapore commit so often, it's obvious a good number of them have no idea they are breaking the law. Here are five common driving violations Singaporeans commit, and we explain why, fines and punishment aside, the rules are there for a good reason.
1. U-Turns Are Illegal Unless There Is A U-Turn Sign
This one's easy and simple. Under the Road Traffic Act rules:
"13.—(1) No driver or rider of any vehicle shall make a U-turn at any road intersection, road junction or opening in a road divider unless he is permitted to do so by a road sign."
Breaking this rule could net you a $70 fine, if caught.
Why It's Unsafe: Most often this happens at a right-turning junction. If a car does a U-turn when all the other vehicles are turning right, it could result in a collision. In the case of an accident, the U-turning vehicle will obviously be at fault.
2. Going Slowly In The Right Lane
The Singaporean highway mentality is that you can go pretty much as you please in the right lane as long as you're not speeding. This isn't true, as blocking the right lane (aka the over-taking lane) is an offence called road-hogging. According to a news release from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), people have indeed been fined for it, and it's punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine plus a three-month jail term. According to another MHA release, "Over the last three years, an average of 1,750 summonses were issued each year for road hogging."
Why It's Unsafe: Blocking the right lane causes overtaking cars to be forced to undertake (yes, it's a real term, and it's also an offence in some countries) and it also causes more traffic congestion, according to this BBC article. From a courtesy perspective, you might not be in a rush today, but one day you will.
3. Parallel Parking In The Wrong Direction
If you're parking parallel, it's actually an offence to park a car against the flow of traffic. According to the HDB parking rules, this little known offence is worth a $50 fine.
Why It's Unsafe: If pull out into traffic facing the opposite direction, you can blind drivers with your headlights, and you'll also need to go against the flow of traffic to get back on the correct side of the road.
4. Indiscriminate Use Of Fog-lights Could Land You In Prison
The Land Transport Authority does not ban the use of fog-lights here. According to its FAQ they must meet certain standards. It is, however, an offence to use them during regular weather conditions, both day and night. Flouting this rule means a driver is liable for a fine of $1,000 and a three month jail term. Repeating the offence gets you double the fine and/or jail time.
Why It's Unsafe: Just like very bright or badly-adjusted headlights, excessively bright fog-lights can be distracting to the driver in front of you. Also, in heavy rain and or fog, turning on more lights may actually cause it to diffuse further, causing glare and reducing vision even further. Also, neither does using your fog-lights while shutting off your main beam save you energy.
5. Leaving Your Car's Engine On While Stationary
According to the National Environment Agency and the Environmental Protection and Management Regulations for Vehicular Emissions, leaving your car's engine on while the car is stopped, for any period of time, is also an offence and can result in a fine from $70 to $2,000. Stopping at a red light is obviously not counted, though. As this AsiaOne/TNP news story from August 2013 shows, this rule is something most people are still unaware of.
Why It's Unsafe: Emissions are bad - everyone knows that. Having a stationary car with the engine idle is probably the worst thing for efficiency, which is why start-stop systems were invented. Also, stationary idling means polluting the air around you, which affects the health of everyone else. One idling car might not be a big difference, but imagine thousands of cars all burning fuel for no good reason. Exhaust fumes are known causes of respiratory illnesses and cancers. According to a story in Today, respiratory illnesses accounted for more than a fifth of all deaths in Singapore in 2013.
Derryn Wong is currently editor-in-chief of the magazines CarBuyer and TopGear Singapore, and he enjoys probing all aspects of the motoring industry, ranging from bizarre holes in the upholstery to the engineered insanity of the COE system. No, not those kinds of holes.