In-car cameras drive more to report offences

A camera mounted on a rear-view mirror. The Traffic Police and GIA are exploring means to encourage the installation of such cameras in vehicles. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
A camera mounted on a rear-view mirror. The Traffic Police and GIA are exploring means to encourage the installation of such cameras in vehicles. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

With more motorists installing surveillance cameras in their vehicles, some have taken to playing traffic vigilantes when they capture footage of others breaking the rules.

"It's like a neighbourhood watch group, except it's on the road," said Mr Jonathan Thong, 45, who has submitted 12 such videos to the Traffic Police in the past year.

The project manager and father of two believes he is helping to promote road safety. If errant drivers know their behaviour might be recorded and reported to the authorities, they may be encouraged to be more courteous on the road, he said.

The videos he sent to the Traffic Police were taken on different occasions and included incidents of motorists who made illegal turns, crossed double white lines and stopped in yellow boxes.

In the first half of this year, there were 171,211 traffic violations recorded compared with 154,049 in the same period last year.

Traffic Police statistics show such violations have been rising since 2010, with 330,909 recorded last year, up from 316,214 in 2011 and 304,472 in 2010.

Traffic Police Commander Cheang Keng Keong told The Sunday Times his department has been receiving an increasing amount of public feedback about errant motorists.

These complaints have led to increased enforcement. He said: "Such efforts by the community in providing feedback on traffic violations are actually commendable and are encouraged."

The police were not able to say how many motorists have been booked as a result of complaints from other motorists.

Lawyer Chia Boon Teck warned that vigilantes should not think that it takes only an e-mail for police to prosecute another road user.

"As the complainant, the vigilante must testify in court if the 'offender' disputes the video footage," he explained. "As a witness in court, the vigilante's identity and particulars will be known to the 'offender'. The vigilante should not think that he can remain anonymous in this whole process."

Should an alleged offender challenge the authenticity of the footage, the person who provided it would have to validate it in court, added Mr Chia.

Mr Derek Teo, executive director of General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA), felt that as motorists become aware of the presence of such recording devices, the in-car cameras could help promote safe driving.

Most motorists install the devices, which cost between $200 and $500, mainly to record evidence in the event of an accident, said Mr Jack Seah, 41, owner of Darren Auto. "Such evidence would come in useful during squabbles between parties involved in the accident," said Mr Seah, who sells and installs about 30 such cameras a month.

To encourage more motorists to install such cameras, the Traffic Police and the GIA are studying the possibility of a motor insurance premium discount for those with the devices in their vehicles.

Mr Pan Jing Long, head of general insurance at Aviva Singapore, said about one in 50 car insurance claims received by Aviva Singapore comes with video evidence.

He said: "This is still a relatively small number but it has actually doubled compared to two years ago."