Driver in fatal crash was on medication

Ong, the driver of this car, was travelling at high speed when he rammed into a lorry, which flipped over and tumbled down a side road. The lorry driver died on the spot.
Ong, the driver of this car, was travelling at high speed when he rammed into a lorry, which flipped over and tumbled down a side road. The lorry driver died on the spot.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO READER

Jail and driving ban for motorist who caused death of a lorry driver

A 25-YEAR-OLD man, on medication to cope with wisdom tooth pain, took to the road and ended up causing a fatal accident.

Motorist Ong Heng Guan switched lanes at high speed and struck a lorry at the slip road into Bukit Panjang Road off Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) on Dec 23 last year. The impact flipped the lorry over, and its 59-year-old driver died on the spot.

On Wednesday, Ong was jailed for 15 months and banned from driving for eight years for causing the death of Mr Toh Hno Soi through dangerous driving and driving under the influence of drugs.

He was behind the wheel of a white Volkswagen car at about 3am that day when he sped along BKE at about twice the speed limit. Upon nearing the slip road into Bukit Panjang Road, he abruptly swerved from lane two into the sharp left bend of the slip road at high speed without signalling or slowing down.

Mr Toh, who was self-employed, was driving at a slow and steady speed when Ong, who was travelling faster than him, sought to drive towards the left and braked at the last minute, but was unable to avoid the lorry.

The lorry flipped over onto its side and tumbled down the slip road before coming to a rest on its right side.

Ong lost control of his car, which surged forward, travelled down the slip road, crossed the three lanes along Bukit Panjang Road, and mounted the centre divider before returning to the road and stopping on the extreme left.

Police officers who attended to the accident noted that Ong had slurred speech. His response was slow and his gait was unsteady due to the influence of drugs.

Ong, who was taken to hospital for pain in his forearm and chest, was found to have consumed medications which individually or collectively could cause drowsiness, dizziness, muscle weakness and blurred vision in some people.

He told police officers he had taken a cough mixture, Panadol Active and flu medication the day before, and painkiller for his wisdom tooth. He further admitted to having taken an oval orange pill about 30 minutes before the accident to help him calm down as he was feeling depressed. He had bought the pills from a person called Ah Boy in Geylang.

In his sentencing submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Fong Jing Heng highlighted the aggravating factors - the high speed at which Ong was travelling while negotiating the bend, and the fact that he was intoxicated with the various medications.

Ong could have been jailed for up to five years for causing death by dangerous driving.

For driving under the influence of drugs, the maximum penalty is a $5,000 fine and six months' jail plus at least 12 months' disqualification.

elena@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'Driver in fatal crash was on medication'. Print Edition | Subscribe