Danger ahead. Divert driving lessons

This story was first published in The Straits Times on June 7, 2013

A DRIVING centre here has identified "hot spots" - chosen for the size and number of trees along the roads - for its instructors to avoid during bad weather.

This safety precaution was implemented by the Singapore Safety Driving Centre (SSDC) in Woodlands last month following an accident which killed one of its instructors on April 27.

Mr Jason Cheong, 25, was with a trainee when a tree uprooted by strong winds fell on the car they were in. He was in the front passenger seat and his student, Ms Marliana Sumarno, 34, was at the wheel.

Paramedics pronounced Mr Cheong dead at the scene, while Ms Marliana was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Mr Gerard Pereira, manager at the SSDC, told The Straits Times yesterday that immediate precautionary measures were put in place. They include designating the portion of Admiralty Road West where Mr Cheong was killed as a "hot spot".

The tree had fallen on the car at the part of the road opposite Admiralty West Prison.

"All staff were told to avoid that stretch if there was heavy rain or lightning," he said.

Mr Cheong is the first instructor that Mr Pereira can recall who has died on the job.

In the week following the accident, Mr Pereira said several members of the SSDC operations team drove around the neighbourhoods in Woodlands and Ang Mo Kio, where the SSDC has a branch, to identify hot spots.

Instructors from the centres generally take students around those neighbourhoods.

They looked out for areas where the trees were large, growing densely and located close to the roadside, he said.

More than 10 hot spots were identified around Ang Mo Kio, and between 15 and 20 around Woodlands.

Some of these include side roads stemming from Woodlands Avenue 1, 3 and 7; Riverside Road towards Admiralty Road; and portions along Gambas Avenue and Marsiling Drive.

Mr Pereira told The Straits Times that notices on these spots were put up for the staff and all instructors were informed.

"They are to divert their trainees out of those areas if there is heavy rain, strong winds, lightning or poor visibility," he said.

The lesson can then continue either on other roads in the area or in the Woodlands centre's training circuit.

He added that the identification of the spots was important as instructors must be alert to other conditions apart from traffic.

"Because the vehicles are covered, there is a tendency to forget the reality that humans are still vulnerable to whatever the environment throws at us.

"Of course, these are precautions and cannot prevent disaster from striking. But they are good reminders for our instructors and useful for them to impart to their trainees," he said.

This story was first published in The Straits Times on June 7, 2013

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