Take precautions when driving overseas: Experts

Last month alone saw three fatal road accidents involving Singapore travellers

Ms Koh Yuan Ling, 33, died in a road accident in South Africa on Dec 21. Last year, five fatal traffic accidents involving Singaporeans were reported.
Ms Koh Yuan Ling, 33, died in a road accident in South Africa on Dec 21. Last year, five fatal traffic accidents involving Singaporeans were reported.PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF KOH YUAN LING

Those who choose to drive overseas must take precautions, say experts, following recent fatal traffic accidents involving Singaporeans on vacation.

While numbers are not available on how many Singaporeans are involved in road accidents overseas, there were five reported fatal cases last year, with three in December alone. In 2016, there were two reported cases of fatal accidents.

In the most recent case, 33-year-old interior designer Koh Yuan Ling died in a road accident in South Africa on Dec 21.

Travel agencies here have noted a greater demand for self-drive holidays to destinations such as the United States and New Zealand - where recent accidents occurred - with the number of such holiday packages sold increasing at a rate of about 15 per cent per year.

Automobile Association of Singapore president Bernard Tay said a "fair amount" of people here apply each year for the International Driving Permit, though he cannot provide figures.

Recognised in more than 150 countries, the permit is a small booklet which translates the information on a person's driving licence into 10 languages.

Fatigue is one factor behind why those driving in other countries are involved in accidents, said Mr Tay, who is also chairman of the Singapore Road Safety Council.

"When you first land you should have sufficient rest. After a long flight, you're not in any state of mind to drive."


    • Apply for an international driving permit - available from the Automobile Association of Singapore - which may be required when driving in certain countries.

    • Do not drive when tired. You may be jet-lagged after a long flight, so ensure you get sufficient rest.

    • Have a co-driver who can take over the wheel if you need to rest.

    • When renting a car, choose more reputable, well-known companies. While their rates may be higher, their fleets are more likely to be newer and better maintained.

    • Ensure features such as brakes and headlights are in good working condition.

    • Many rural areas may not be lit by street lamps at night, so drive slowly in these areas. This will allow you to better anticipate terrain changes and road curvatures, as well as animals on the road.

    • When driving in wintry conditions, ensure your car is fitted with winter tyres in case of snow.

    • In wintry conditions, keep a distance from the vehicle in front, go slower and be ready to take evasive action in case of black ice, where a thin layer of ice coats the road.

    • In cold weather, deactivate the recirculation button on the air-conditioning to remove moisture from the cabin and prevent the windscreen from fogging up.

He added those planning to drive overseas should prepare themselves ahead of their trips.

This includes becoming familiar with the terrain and weather conditions, as well as bringing along road maps or global positioning system devices to navigate through the destinations.

Said Ms Alicia Seah, marketing communications director for Dynasty Travel: "It is important to note that in some countries such as the US, (people) drive on the right side of the road, which is different from Singapore, where we drive on the left side."

Driving on the right-hand side of the road is the practice in more than 160 countries and territories worldwide.

Road safety expert Gopinath Menon said it can take as long as two to three weeks to get used to driving on the opposite side of the road when overseas.

Singapore's urban conditions also mean drivers may not be used to driving at high speeds or on long stretches of highway, said Mr Menon, a senior transport research consultant with the Nanyang Technological University.

"When driving long distances, you can get tired or complacent to your surroundings," he said.

He added: "You have to be prepared. Driving overseas is not the same as driving in Singapore."



Dec 22: University of California, Berkeley student Justin Yeo Jun Xi, 22, and his parents died in a collision with another vehicle in Arizona in the United States. His 19-year-old sister, Ms Justlyn Yeo Jing Hui, was seriously injured.

Dec 21: Interior designer Koh Yuan Ling, 33, died in a road crash while travelling in South Africa. Her sister survived with injuries. 


Dec 11: A Singaporean, identified by Shin Min Daily News as Mr Seow Kai Yuan, died in a traffic accident on New Zealand's South Island.

June 5: Business analyst Y.L. Tan, 40, died after his vehicle collided with a four-wheel-drive vehicle heading in the opposite direction along the Indian Ocean Drive near Perth, Western Australia.

May 4: Ms Rena Ong, 29, and her husband, Mr Chen Zhi Hao, 39, who both worked at an audio-visual firm, died after their camper van crashed into an oncoming pick-up on New Zealand's South Island.


Sept 10: Mr Ng Kai Jie, a 22-year-old full-time national serviceman, suffered head injuries and died after the rental car he was driving crashed into a lorry on Malaysia's North-South Expressway.

Jan 1: Electronics contractor Lim Yew Beng, 49, died after his Mercedes-Benz collided with another car in Johor Baru.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2018, with the headline 'Take precautions when driving overseas: Experts'. Subscribe