Parliament: Higher traffic fines for drivers of luxury cars among MPs' suggestions to improve road safety

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said that the Ministry of Home Affairs will study the suitability and impact of implementing such a system. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Fines for traffic offences should be pegged to the open market value of the offending motorist's vehicle, which would enhance the deterrent effect against unsafe driving.

In doing so, motorists who own luxury cars would then pay more fines for the same offence compared to those who drive cheaper vehicles, suggested Nominated Member of Parliament Walter Theseira in Parliament on Monday (July 8).

This would make fines more meaningful as a deterrent for motorists of higher income levels, he added.

Dr Theseira said this would be a more practical way than pegging fines to the income levels of errant motorists, as he cited the example of a Finnish businessman who was fined 54,024 euros for driving at 64 miles per hour in a 50 mile per hour zone.

"I think it reasonable to presume that the driver of a large luxury car is able to pay more than one driving a cheaper vehicle, and would likely regard the demerit points and other consequences of an offence as far more serious than the value of the fine itself," he added.

"In fact, insofar as many luxury cars are marketed as safer than less well-equipped cars, there is even more reason to increase the optimal fine as a deterrent, since the perceived risk of injury to the driver themselves will be lower and they may be more inclined to speed."

In response to Dr Theseira's suggestion, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling noted that while some jurisdictions such as Finland have implemented such an income-based system, others such as the United Kingdom had piloted trials but they were eventually discontinued.

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She added that the Ministry of Home Affairs will study the suitability and impact of implementing such a similar system.

This was one of many suggestions voiced by MPs during the second reading of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill on Monday (July 8), which also saw one NMP sharing her close-shave with the dangers of discretionary right turn junctions.

Drawing gasps from the House, Professor Lim Sun Sun revealed that she had been knocked down by a double-decker bus that had been making a discretionary right turn, while she was crossing the road at the junction of Upper Changi Road East and Somapah Road last month.

While she escaped the accident largely unscathed, apart from "severe aching" in the following few days, the incident showed that discretionary right turn junctions are "fundamentally problematic", said Prof Lim, who is head of the humanities, arts and social sciences at Singapore University of Technology and Design.

The issue of discretionary right turns was also raised by several other MPs, who urged the Land Transport Authority to expedite the implementation of red, amber, green (RAG) arrows to control right turns at traffic light junctions instead.

Last April, the authority said it would take five years to complete the replacement of the bulk of discretionary right turns, and that RAG arrows have been installed at more than 250 junctions so far. There are about 1,600 such junctions in Singapore.

Meanwhile, other MPs suggested leveraging on new technology to enhance road safety.

Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC) suggested issuing rebates to car dealers who install safety-enabling technologies such as auto-brake functions in their vehicles.

Similarly, Prof Lim said the Government could explore using urban analytics to track vehicular and human traffic at all junctions, to optimise traffic light timings for a safer and more efficient traffic flow.

She also wondered if public buses could be equipped with advanced sensors that would alert drivers so they can avoid collisions with pedestrians or other road users.

The use of ignition interlock devices - which require drivers to blow into a mouthpiece to measure their alcohol levels before they can start the vehicle - was also mooted by several MPs.

Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC) said these devices could be installed in vehicles owned or driven by convicted drink-drivers, similar to that in countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and the United States.

Apart from using legislation and improving road infrastructure and technology, some MPs also urged MHA to continue to educate road users.

In this vein, Ms Rahayu Mazam (Jurong GRC) called for the ministry to engage and shape the behaviours of vocational drivers, while Mr Ang said contents of driving courses should be reviewed periodically.

In addition, Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC) suggested that customised training, as well as cognitive and health checks can be conducted for motorists above 65 years old, to ensure that they remain safe drivers.

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