The Sunday Times says

The gracious road to safety

(From left) Singapore Kindness Movement general secretary William Wan, Singapore Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay, Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin, Senior Assistant Commissioner Sam Tee, and Land Transport Authority chief transportation en
(From left) Singapore Kindness Movement general secretary William Wan, Singapore Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay, Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin, Senior Assistant Commissioner Sam Tee, and Land Transport Authority chief transportation engineer Dr Chin Kian Keong activating the launch mechanism of the Safer Roads Campaign on 21 March 2017.PHOTO: RAYNOLD TOH

By focusing on graciousness, the Safer Roads Campaign seeks to draw Singaporeans' attention to the soft power of considerate behaviour on roads. The hard power is evident in traffic laws and regulations that exist to deter wrong, reckless or dangerous behaviour. But it is impossible for the law to be present everywhere at all times, which spurs some to flout rules and tempt fate by, for example, speeding or running the lights. A few have been known to even drive on the wrong side of the road - practices that mock the reach of the law. Yet, the fact that strict punishment exists for offenders who are caught means that the hard power of deterrent measures alone cannot keep roads safe for all users.

Soft power must also be invoked, but its effects are less visible unless the majority harness it to effect change. Tailgating is a familiar example, which creates needless tension among drivers and could lead to mishaps when an emergency stop is required. Changing lanes abruptly, frequently and selfishly to get ahead can endanger others too. It reflects a "Third World" mentality that is out of place in a road network that is envied by visitors from the region. Refusing to give way to faster-moving vehicles is another cultural trait which is impossible to police all the time as it happens everywhere.

However, it is possible to imagine more users on Singapore roads who exude gracious manners and do not depend on squads of law enforcers to ensure safe passage. Making allowances for others and giving vulnerable road users more time and space are considerate acts that benefit all in turn as such acts can spur others on the road to reciprocate. The overall result is that more can have a pleasant commuting experience, whether in a vehicle, on a bike or scooter, or on foot. All road users owe a duty of care to others. Fulfilling this graciously is more satisfying than under duress.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 26, 2017, with the headline 'The gracious road to safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe