Uber driver jailed over fatal accident

He also gets five-year driving ban for crash that killed passenger and injured van driver

In the first fatality involving an Uber car, a 23-year-old driver was yesterday jailed for six weeks and banned from driving for five years for causing his passenger's death and injuring a van driver.

Saddam Hussein Norazman admitted to causing the death of Ms Goh Pei Ling, 18, and grievously hurting Mr Muhammad Shuib Samat, 22, by committing a negligent act that endangered life, along Seletar Expressway on Sept 25 last year.

He was ferrying Ms Goh and her sister-in-law - Ms Chan Qian Jin, 20, who was five months' pregnant at the time - in a Toyota Vios at about 3.45am when he failed to notice a stationary lorry ahead of him.

Investigations showed the lorry driver had stopped on the leftmost lane, behind Mr Shuib's van.

Mr Shuib got out to speak to the driver over an incident earlier involving the two vehicles.

Saddam was driving along the leftmost lane when he noticed the lorry from three to five car lengths away. He hit the brakes and tried to switch lanes, but crashed into the lorry, then Mr Shuib, and finally the van. Mr Shuib landed on the car's windscreen and broke his arm. Neither woman was wearing a seat belt. Ms Goh was taken to hospital and pronounced dead at 7.31am, while Ms Chan's face and eye were injured.

Surveillance footage showed Saddam's car hit the lorry about 17 seconds after its hazard lights were turned on. Deputy Public Prosecutor Ryan David Lim said there was a significant degree of negligence shown by Saddam, and the degree of harm was high. He said Saddam had ample time and distance - about 320m - to avoid a collision.

Pleading for leniency, Saddam's lawyer Muntaz Zainuddin said her client, an Islamic law undergraduate in Jordan, has been traumatised by the accident. He could neither sleep nor eat properly as a result of the guilt he felt at the loss of life.

Ms Goh's father, Mr Goh Chin Chye, 53, said his daughter-in-law, Ms Chan, has given birth to a baby girl, but still suffers from blurred vision sometimes.

Uber and GrabCar have said their drivers' cars must be covered by a commercial insurance policy before they are allowed to offer services.

District Judge Jasvender Kaur backdated Saddam's sentence to Feb 6. He could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined for causing death by a negligent act. The maximum penalty for causing grievous hurt by committing a negligent act to endanger life is two years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

• Additional reporting by Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2017, with the headline 'Uber driver jailed over fatal accident'. Print Edition | Subscribe