Driver who was confused by signals gets sentence cut

Lee-Teh Har Eng made a right turn at this junction in Tampines as she thought she had the right of way.
Lee-Teh Har Eng made a right turn at this junction in Tampines as she thought she had the right of way.PHOTO: MARCUS TAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

She gets a day's jail, $5k fine, instead of a week's jail after appeal

The High Court yesterday accepted a driver's contention that she caused a road accident as a result of being confused by "unusual" signals at a traffic junction, and cut her sentence from a week's jail to a day's jail and a $5,000 fine.

Housewife Lee-Teh Har Eng, 57, had pleaded guilty to causing grievous hurt to a 56-year-old motorcyclist by a negligent act at about 8pm on Jan 18 last year.

She admitted she failed to keep a proper lookout when turning right from Tampines Avenue 12 onto the slip road of Tampines Expressway towards Seletar Expressway, causing a collision with the oncoming motorcyclist, who had the right of way.

Pastor Charles Lo Weng Kwong was flung off his motorbike, and had wrist and leg fractures. He was hospitalised for 11/2 months.

In mitigation, Teh had said she made the turn as she was under the impression that she had the right of way.

She added that she was unfamiliar with the area.

On her side of the road at the junction, there was a single green arrow for turning right, and no red or amber signals. As she approached the junction, the green arrow was in her favour and a car in front of her made a right turn.

She intended to follow as there was no red light against her and vehicles on the opposite side were stationary, waiting for the light to turn green in their favour.

In the dark, she said, her judgment was affected by another green light ahead - which turned out to be the "green man" light for pedestrians.

Teh said she was about to complete the turn when Mr Lo came bearing down from her left.

After the accident, Teh's brother called for an ambulance. Teh also made a report and handed the memory card from her in-car camera to the Traffic Police.

In May, she was sentenced to a week's jail by a district judge who found her explanation "illogical" and ruled that the degree of her negligence was high. She was also handed a three-year driving ban.

Teh appealed against the jail term. Her lawyer, Mr Tan Hee Joek, submitted the in-car camera footage, arguing that the traffic junction was not a common one and that Teh was not speeding.

Mr Tan also argued that his client had shown deep remorse. Teh visited Mr Lo in hospital and sent him prayer messages.

Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon concluded that Teh was not grossly negligent and accepted her contention that she was confused. "This appears to be a case involving an inadvertent but regrettable lapse of attention," he said.

The most likely cause of her confusion was her distraction and disorientation in an unfamiliar set of road conditions and an unusual traffic signal setting, he said. He also took into account her "extremely high" level of remorse towards the victim, who wrote a letter asking the court not to jail her.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2016, with the headline 'Driver who was confused by signals gets sentence cut'. Print Edition | Subscribe