Road aggression cost motorcyclist his life: Coroner

A case of road aggression cost a motorcyclist his life and his female pillion rider her left leg.

The accident happened two years ago when the rider engaged a motorist while travelling at high speeds along a road in Woodlands, a coroner's court heard.

Yesterday, State Coroner Marvin Bay found Mr Jason Tan Jia Sheng's death to be a "tragic traffic misadventure" after a two-day inquest into his death on Aug 23, 2015. He was 22.

Coroner Bay called on motorists to exercise courtesy, restraint and sound judgment even when they face challenging circumstances on the road.

"This sad case underscores the high cost of belligerence and aggression, which can escalate to a 'contest of wills' between assertive and competitive motorists, inspiring heedless and unrestrained behaviour that can yield a tragic outcome," he said.

Mr Tan's female pillion rider, aged 23, was in a coma for months and had a below-knee amputation of her left lower limb. She was hospitalised for five months.

Coroner Bay said both Mr Tan and the motorist, Mr Ivan Chew Zong Xian, 29, had built up a "significant level of animosity". But he found no malicious or deliberate act on the part of either party.

The court heard that Mr Tan and his friends had gone bowling at Orchid Country Club on Aug 22, 2015. They left at around 2am to proceed to a friend's home in Woodlands Avenue 4.

Along Gambas Avenue, Mr Tan's friend, Mr Sim Beng Hui, overtook Mr Chew's car. Subsequently while travelling on the extreme right lane along Woodlands Avenue 12, Mr Tan overtook him from the centre lane, followed by Mr Chew's car, at a faster speed, while the rest of the group stayed behind.

At the traffic junction of Woodlands Avenue 12 and Woodlands Avenue 4, Mr Sim said he saw Mr Tan looking at Mr Chew. When the light turned green, both the car and Mr Tan's motorcycle picked up speed and proceeded straight towards Woodlands Avenue 9.

Mr Sim followed suit and after both vehicles passed the intersection of Woodlands Drive 53, he saw the car swerve from the centre lane to the left at a high speed, brake for a moment, and swerve back to the centre lane, while Mr Tan was behind.

According to Mr Sim, Mr Chew appeared to be trying to force Mr Tan off the road. Immediately after this, he saw Mr Tan's motorcycle flip upwards and both Mr Tan and his pillion rider were thrown off.

The Attorney-General's Chambers will study the coroner's findings before deciding what course of action to take.

Elena Chong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2017, with the headline 'Road aggression cost motorcyclist his life: Coroner'. Print Edition | Subscribe