SINGAPORE — A taxi driver and another driver involved in a road accident at Clementi which caused the death of an undergraduate and injured three others in 2018 were found liable for damages for one of the injured passengers.
National University of Singapore (NUS) student Ting Jun Heng was sitting beside fellow student Kathy Ong in a taxi driven by Yap Kok Hua when the accident occurred at the junction of Commonwealth Avenue West and Clementi Road.
Yap, 57, was making a discretionary right turn when an oncoming car driven by Ng Li Ning ploughed into its side.
Ong, 19, died from multiple injuries while Ting suffered traumatic brain injury. Two others, Lim Jin Jie, suffered bleeding in the brain and a spinal fracture, while Zon Lim, who was seated in front, suffered a brain injury.
Ting claimed damages against Yap and Ng for negligence in the driving of their vehicles.
Justice Aedit Abdullah found that Yap bore a greater degree of liability for the accident as he was making a discretionary turn.
“Priority lay with those vehicles going straight; it was incumbent upon...(Yap) to keep a proper lookout, and exercise prudent judgment in executing the turn,” said the judge.
If he was not sure of their safety, he should have waited for oncoming traffic to clear or for the green arrow traffic light to come on, said the judge. However, Yap simply followed the vehicle next to him, which turned but avoided being hit by oncoming traffic.
The judge also found that Ng was also liable but to a lesser extent than Yap. Ng’s responsibility was primarily on how much he exercised a proper lookout and the speed at which he was travelling.
It was not disputed that Ng had gone over the speed limit, noted the judge. He accepted Ng’s expert witness’ evidence that the Ng’s car was travelling at a speed of between 74kmh and 87kmh, above the speed limit.
Ng also failed to keep a proper lookout and drive with proper care at the junction.
“Having the right of way essentially means that other users should yield or give way. But, having the right of way does not absolve that particular road user of the need to exercise due care. Even though Ng had the right of way, he was not absolved of the responsibility of exercising due care,” noted Justice Abdullah.
A driver ought to adjust his speed if needed to reduce the risk of collision. “Where the drivers of the turning vehicles are over-optimistic, the driver going straight should exercise caution, slow down to allow for appropriate reaction(s), and sound the horn as appropriate,” said the judge. However Ng did not do so.
Another issue before the court was whether Ting had worn his seatbelt at the time of the incident. However, Justice Abdullah noted that Ting had testified that it was his usual practice to wear a seatbelt and there was no reason to find that he had not. Ting was also not convicted of the offence of not wearing a seatbelt.
The judge found Yap was liable for 65 per cent of the damages while Ng was found liable for 35 per cent of the damages.
The case was then adjourned for parties to make submissions on the quantum of damages and costs involved.
Facts from Yap’s criminal case
On the night of 19 April 2018 year, the four victims had boarded Yap’s taxi at Clementi Mall along Commonwealth Avenue West.
Ong sat in the rear left passenger seat while Ting and Lim Jin Jie sat in the middle and right rear passenger seats respectively. Zon Lim sat in the front passenger seat. The group were heading back to Tembusu College, an NUS residential college.
Yap drove on the rightmost lane of Commonwealth Avenue West towards Commonwealth Avenue.
At the signalised cross junction of Commonwealth Avenue West and Clementi Road, Yap stopped at the red traffic light, planning to make a right turn into Clementi Road.
When the traffic light signal turned green, but before the green right turn arrow lit up, Yap drove into the right turning pocket. He stopped and checked for vehicles coming from the opposite direction.
He saw a car coming towards him from the opposite direction at a high speed. However, he decided to complete the right turn.
Ng, who was driving straight at a high speed, was unable to avoid colliding with the taxi.
In August last year, Yap was jailed eight weeks in the State Courts after he pleaded guilty to causing Ong's death and causing grievous hurt to the three other passengers by his negligent driving.
Ng was charged with dangerous driving. His case is pending before the courts.
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