8 drivers caught daily using mobile devices

Last February, amendments to the Road Traffic Act made it illegal for motorists to hold or use any type of mobile device while driving, including small tablets.
Last February, amendments to the Road Traffic Act made it illegal for motorists to hold or use any type of mobile device while driving, including small tablets.THE NEW PAPER FILE PHOTO

Total number of cases declining, but experts view last year's figures as 'high' and say habit is still entrenched

At least eight drivers a day were caught using their mobile devices at the wheel last year, a "high number" which experts say indicates the bad habit is still entrenched here.

According to latest Traffic Police (TP) figures, 3,011 motorists were caught last year, down from 3,358 in 2014 and 3,572 in 2013.

Experts say the decrease is likely due to tighter regulations governing the use of mobile devices while driving.

In February last year, amendments to the Road Traffic Act made it illegal for motorists to hold or use any type of mobile device while driving, including small tablets.

The change was made amid a rise in phone-and-drive offences. Before that, it was a crime only to hold a mobile phone and use it to communicate while driving.

  • DRIVERS CAUGHT USING MOBILE DEVICES IN 2015 - 3,011

    IN 2014 - 3,358

    IN 2013 - 3,572

It is not an offence to use mobile devices if they are mounted on a holder while driving, or hold them while the vehicle is stationary.

Earlier this month, TP Commander Sam Tee said awareness about the crime has increased and TP's enforcement would continue.

Mr Bernard Tay, chairman of the Singapore Road Safety Council, said: "The law has had some effect. At least people are more cautious now; they know if they are caught, there will be certain penalties imposed upon them."

First-time offenders can be fined up to $1,000, jailed up to six months, or both.

Having said that, Mr Tay and others believe that many drivers still use their phones while driving thinking they can get away with it.

Mr Gerard Pereira from the Singapore Safety Driving Centre points out that enforcing the law is difficult because police officers have to catch drivers red-handed.

"I still see drivers using their phones on the expressway, and they don't understand the danger is not just to themselves but others as well," he said.

Deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport Ang Hin Kee said more efforts have to be made to educate drivers and understand the behavioural triggers that lead them to use their mobile devices while behind the wheel.

Mr Ang, who is also an Ang Mo Kio GRC MP, suggested safer ways of communicating while driving, such as installing devices in the vehicles of delivery drivers to allow them to respond to business needs or queries from bosses and customers, without using their phones.

"Whether it is using a mobile device or drink driving, just because you have the law and enforcement (against them), it doesn't deter people 100 per cent. You have to sustain this with education," said Mr Ang.

Motorist Ivan Yeo, 47, suggested that drivers could be encouraged to use hands-free devices if they have to take calls. The businessman said: "A car is like a weapon, you can hurt yourself or other people if you don't concentrate... In a split second, accidents can happen."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 28, 2016, with the headline '8 drivers caught daily using mobile devices'. Print Edition | Subscribe