One road rage attack every 4 days in Singapore

Cases on the rise, hitting 97 last year, but actual number may be higher as many go unreported

Incidents of road rage are on the rise in Singapore, with known attacks occurring once every four days last year.

Reported cases that resulted in assault rose to 97 last year, up from 84 in 2011 and 63 in 2010.

Some of the cases were heard in court in recent months.

A businessman was sentenced to one month in jail earlier this month for punching a technician he felt should have given way to him on a street in Jurong East.

A motorist was jailed for a week last month after a row with an SMRT bus driver at Khatib MRT station. In a fit of temper, the man kicked in a bus-door glass panel.

A breakdance teacher was jailed for two weeks in January for trying to pull a woman out of a taxi. He had confronted the cabby for honking and flashing his headlights when he overtook the taxi in his car, and the woman passenger was trying to photograph him.

A similar incident occurred on May 18, when a cabby was challenged to a fight after he had apparently honked at a group of people he felt was holding up traffic outside the Civil Service Club in Tessensohn Road, near Balestier.

The number of road rage incidents may well be higher, as many go unreported, said Singapore Road Safety Council vice-chairman Gopinath Menon. "People avoid reporting unless it gets out of hand because of the hassle. They get upset, but they usually just let it go."

MP Gan Thiam Poh, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said the figures are "alarming, especially when there might be more cases".

"This is unacceptable in our society," he said. "We need to look into how to address this and maybe have a code of conduct for drivers to learn to handle and manage conflicts and differences, rather than resort to violence."

Criminal lawyer Josephus Tan said that under the law, there must be some sort of physical assault with regard to a traffic incident before it is classified as road rage. "But at the end of the day, you can always report an incident. However, it's whether you're willing to spend the time and effort," he said.

Getting an alleged assailant arrested is not that straightforward, said lawyer Daniel Atticus Xu.

"Legally, a police officer cannot arrest the person who has been alleged to be a road bully unless he saw the incident," he said.

He explained that in road rage cases, the report is classified as voluntarily causing hurt if there is an assault with no dangerous weapon used, or no serious injuries. Thus, it is classified as a non-seizable offence, which means that after making a police report, victims need to file a magistrate's complaint and let the court decide whether an offence has been committed and to get the police to investigate.

Anyone convicted of voluntarily causing hurt can be jailed for up to two years or fined up to $5,000, or both.

Police advise drivers encountering road bullies to stay calm, not respond in an aggressive or reckless manner and to avoid face-to-face confrontations. They should also maintain a safe driving distance and note down the vehicle's licence plate number to report the incident to the police.

limyihan@sph.com.sg