'I jaywalk because I'm fast enough': Why senior jaywalkers continue to risk life and limb

A man jaywalking across Circuit Road on Feb 15, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
15 senior pedestrians died last year, about half of them from jaywalking. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
A couple jaywalking across Circuit Road on Feb 15, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
A woman jaywalking at Serangoon Avenue 3 on Feb 15, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Last Monday, around 11.30am, an elderly man on crutches slowly approached the road along Circuit Road Food Centre, looking to get to the bus stop opposite.

He looked to his right, where a traffic light was about 50m away. He then looked to his left, where cars were turning into the road he was at.

Despite that, the old man crossed slowly, unconcerned about approaching cars. The drivers did not honk at him and slowed down to give way.

He made it across safely that day.

But 15 senior pedestrians died last year, about half of them from jaywalking.

Last Monday's scene played out several times at Circuit Road and Serangoon Avenue 3 when The Sunday Times was there to observe seniors' attitudes towards road safety.

Some were also using crutches, pulling trolleys and holding the hands of young children as they jaywalked.

At Circuit Road, The Sunday Times found more than 20 seniors jaywalking to get to the Block 79 and 79A Circuit Road Food Centre or to Housing Board blocks, between 11am and 12.30pm.

Though there was a pedestrian crossing nearby and a sign prohibiting jaywalking, many seniors jaywalked across the three-lane road.

There were also many parked vehicles along the road, which could have blocked drivers' view of pedestrians crossing the road.

A resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chua, said jaywalking was very common there.

The retired healthcare assistant, 79, said: "Some seniors are too weak to walk all the way to the traffic light or climb stairs at overhead bridges that don't have lifts or ramps."

Another resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Pang, 70, said seniors get into accidents because they misjudge the speed of cars and overestimate how fast they can walk.

He said he always checks for traffic carefully and added: "I jaywalk because I am fast enough (to cross the road)."

At Serangoon, more than 60 seniors were spotted jaywalking between 6pm and 7pm. Traffic along the two-way road was mostly heavy.

Most seniors were seen jaywalking less than 50m from the nearest pedestrian crossing, where there was a sign prohibiting jaywalking.

One jaywalker, a resident who wanted to be known only as Mr Mark, said: "I didn't see the need to walk to the traffic light as there was no traffic."

An elderly man seen jaywalking at Serangoon Avenue 3. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Educating seniors

Organisations like the Singapore Road Safety Council (SRSC) and senior activity centres said engaging the elderly can be challenging.

A supervisor from an Anglican Senior Centre branch said seniors can be stubborn at times and will need repeated reminders about road safety.

SRSC chairman Bernard Tay said: "Besides the laws and advisories, behavioural habits are equally important too and it is never easy to change one's mindset and habits."

Last year, the Traffic Police and SRSC launched the Road Safety For The Elderly 2020 campaign, which included a video encouraging the elderly to use pedestrian crossings and have better awareness on the road.

Four elderly care centres said they had programmes to educate the elderly on road safety.

Lions Befrienders (LB), a social service agency that provides more than 7,600 seniors with befriending services, support and activities, recently trained its volunteers to teach seniors about road safety.

An engagement session led by Traffic Police at Sunlove's Senior Activity Centre at Marsiling in 2017. PHOTO: SUNLOVE SENIOR ACTIVITY CENTRE MARSILING

The number of senior pedestrian deaths ranged from 24 to 28 between 2016 and 2019.

LB's chairman, Mr Anthony Tay, said the volunteers learnt the causes of road accidents for the elderly, such as deteriorating vision and slow reactions, and road safety tips such as wearing bright clothes at night.

The training started last month with eight volunteers.

In 2019, the Traffic Police took about 40 seniors from Sunlove's senior activity centre at Marsiling to nearby traffic lights and zebra crossings, to teach them how to get extra time to cross roads and be more aware of their surroundings. They also had a road safety talk conducted in Mandarin, Hokkien, Malay and Tamil.

SRSC's Mr Tay said mindsets and habits take time to change.

He added: "Members of the public should also reach out to their elderly friends and relatives, to encourage them to abide by traffic rules for their own safety.

"We need everyone to play a part in reminding yourself and your loved ones to have good road sense."

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said the number of senior pedestrian deaths ranged from 25 to 28 between 2015 and last year. This has been corrected. We are sorry for the error.

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