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The Sunday Times says

Road to a New Year resolution

A decision to avoid road rage could well be a New Year resolution for Singaporeans to adopt on the way to ensuring a more civilised future for all. That step would mark a small but significant move away from a deteriorating road culture in which some motorists have exchanged blows in full public view. Some do not think twice about stopping in the middle of a highway to rain vulgarities on each other, in a misguided display of the quest for instant retributive justice.

Even the march of technology has not overtaken the visceral desire to settle real or imagined scores on the spot. Thus, in-car cameras do not inhibit anti-social behaviour but instead embolden some to seek vengeance because they believe they are in the right. Obscene gestures and spitting on cars are entering the repertoire of mobile theatrics. This is so in a country where the rule of law is predicated on the sound premise that no one rules the law. The road is no exception.

As in other countries, such behaviour is underpinned by social causes. The pressures of competitive existence spill over into the need for unobstructed and speedy mobility. Cars become an extension of a person's economic self. Every impediment to travel appears to question the driver's self-worth; the impersonal rules of the road become personal. Given the price of cars, being "defeated" on the move indicts the driver's self-perception as an economic success who deserves to own a car. The temptation is to want to own the road as well. An unhealthy obsession with getting one's way on the road, wrongly if not rightly, can lead ultimately to the notion that might is right. The law provides penalties for such behaviour, but the law should form the last resort.

It would be better if Singapore drivers resolved to display that civility towards each other which is customary in a civilised society. The New Year provides a renewed opportunity to do so.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 01, 2017, with the headline 'Road to a New Year resolution'. Print Edition | Subscribe