Sunday, May 03, 2009

Singapore - Red Traffic Signal is Optional

What started as a sense of unease when crossing streets as a pedestrian and driving as a motorist has now become a fact - drivers in Singapore are treating amber and red signal lights as optional indicators to stop.

On my way home from work, I witnessed no fewer than three incidents which could have resulted in fatal accidents. Luckily for me, I was not the first car waiting at Upper Cross Street and Cecil, as a Comfort cab rocketed through the red light, narrowly missing the car in front of me. This was at least 5 seconds AFTER the light had turned green in our favour. Things continued badly as I barely avoided being hit by another taxi running a red light at Orchard Link, and then watched an SBS bus proceed through the red light at Orchard Blvd. and Scotts Road.

Amber appears to mean "accelerate", and Red is for closing one eye and continuing on.

There seems to be a perverse logic at play, in which the time spent waiting determines whether to proceed, not the state of the signal light. A driver forced to wait for pedestrians, or at the end of a long queue appears to believe that his "time served" is sufficient justification for running a red light.

The result is that it is no longer safe to assume one has the right of way because a traffic light is green in one's favour. It is essential to pause when a light turns green, and check to make sure that no vehicle is accelerating towards you.

What's going on?

There seems to be a positive correlation with the state of the economy - behaviour is deteriorating along with people's finances.

Or is it just another expression of the lack of social graces and sense of community that seems to plague residents of Singapore? Unable to connect personal behaviour with societal consequences, it is every man for himself.