Speed up scrapping of discretionary right-turns, urges NMP who was knocked down by bus
Her accident gave her the impetus to make this call.
A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is calling on the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to speed up the process of removing and outlawing discretionary right turns at traffic junctions.
Speaking in Parliament on Monday (Jul. 8) at the second reading of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, Professor Lim Sun Sun, Head of Humanities & Social Sciences at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), said her decision to call for this was prompted by her experience of being knocked down by a bus last month.
“I would like to urge LTA to shorten the timeline for discontinuing these discretionary right turn junctions from the projected five years so that more accidents and fatalities can be prevented.”
In April last year, in the wake of two tragic accidents involving discretionary right turns that cost two backseat passengers their lives, the LTA said in a reply to media queries that it intends to do away with them at most traffic junctions by 2023.
The two accidents also sparked a petition calling for LTA to determine the safety of keeping discretionary right turns on green, given the growth in sizes of junctions.
The accident that floored Prof Lim
The incident took place on June 13, at the junction of Upper Changi Road East and Somapah Road.
Lim said that she was crossing the road to SUTD to meet her students, noting that she waited for the light to turn green in her favour, and that she was not using her phone as she crossed.
“When I was about three-quarters of the way to the other side, I suddenly felt something very large looming over me and I turned to my left to see a double-decker about this close to me. I was stunned and I even made eye contact with the driver and caught his horrified expression as he saw me.
The next thing I knew, I had been thrown on my back and I felt my head hitting the road very, very hard. At that point, I literally saw stars, those in my head, and those in our beautiful night sky, although I couldn’t quite tell which was which.”
Lim added that the bus driver subsequently pulled over and they exchanged information.
She was largely unscathed and did not suffer any fractures or concussions, although she had to endure “severe aches” for the following few days.
Accident made her consider why this happened
Lim said the accident made her think about what could have made the bus captain overlook her presence, given the good road conditions and the fact that she clearly had the right of way.
“Was it a case of a driver whose shift was too long? Or who had had insufficient days of rest?
Or was it an issue of the discretionary right-turn, leading drivers to make a quick turn when there is no oncoming traffic, but forgetting that pedestrians too have the right of way.
What exactly are the safeguards we have in place to prevent an accident like mine from recurring?”
Lim further highlighted that colleagues and students who used the junction also mentioned witnessing many near-misses between cars and pedestrians and cars and PMD riders.
Interestingly, a subsequent meeting she had with the bus driver’s company managers yielded findings that the driver in question was, in fact, one of the company’s safest.
Which brought her to consider the possible inherent problems of discretionary right turns.
Junctions that allow cars & people to cross simultaneously present distinct hazards
Lim said the presence of these turns are inherently dangerous because of the state of urgency it puts drivers in.
“Drivers wait anxiously in the right-turn box and make a dash for it when they note the absence of oncoming traffic, overlooking the fact that there could also be pedestrians crossing at the same time.”
She noted that according to figures provided by the transport ministry between 2011 and 2015, 14 pedestrians and cyclists were killed and 319 were injured after being hit by right-turning vehicles at such junctions.
Lim mentioned the case of a police officer, Salinah Mohamed, who was killed in February by a car turning right at one such junction in Shenton Way, when the driver failed to keep a proper lookout.
She added, “Such junctions that allow cars and people to cross simultaneously presents distinct hazards.”
Top image screenshot from CNA YouTube