The Need for Speed: Singaporean Drivers

Having lived in Canada for the past two and a half years, my perspective on life has changed drastically. Before I left, I used to be impatient and got really mang zhang whenever I encountered slow service. I took pride in Singapore being a highly efficient country, with public transport that got us from point A to point B in no time (I left before any of the MRT lines started breaking down).

Everything about our country is fast. The Internet speed, hawker center food, the walk of workers at Shenton Way during lunch time, and even the way we machine gun a composite of English/Malay/Hokkien/Chinese/Tamil into Singlish, a language that many foreigners have difficulty keeping up with. These are all undeniable examples of the breakneck speed that we are used to.

Moving to Canada, my heart nearly slowed to a stop. Nobody was ever in a hurry to do something, get anywhere, or say anything. It took immense will power not to explode and scream at the barista when they would stop and have a conversation with every customer in line, regardless of the queue that is forming out of the coffee shop. I could not understand why a tailor would take 5 days to alter my jeans by just an inch, nor why my neighbors had to wait for every single person who walked in through the lobby door to enter the lift before they closed the door. I had to relearn how to pace myself, and adapt to the speed of a crawl.

Which I did.

high speed driving

A Blast from the Past

But now when I’m back in Singapore for a holiday, I need to readjust to the pace of living. Sitting in the car of a Singaporean driver, I come close to having many cardiac arrests. Our drivers like beating amber lights, cars weave in and out of lanes to move forward (as do motor cyclists) and drivers don’t hesitate to show you their displeasure honking incessantly if they’re in a good mood, or giving you the finger if they’re in a bad mood. My five years experience of driving in Singapore had clearly went out the window, and I felt like a new driver once more. One who needed the “tau pok” sign at the rear window to warn people that I’m an inexperienced driver on the road!

Every Clouds Has a Silver LIning

Before I scare off any foreigners who are thinking of driving in Singapore, NOT ALL DRIVERS ARE BAD! Thanks to a national campaign that was initiated by DirectAsia.com, and supported by the Singapore Road Safety Council, Singapore Police Force, and Traffic Police Singapore, the road courtesy campaign “Courtesy Counts” targeted at eradicating discourteous drivers from our roads, by promoting 5 key words: Space, Respect, Foresight, Patience, and Considerate.

The campaign had its own Facebook page, and judging by its well-received response of over 5000 ‘Likes’, I am hopeful that Singaporeans are working towards more genial driving habits. So look out for this year’s campaign, where Singaporean unites to keep road safer each day.

DirectAsia.com Courtesy Counts campaign

I’ve heard many people say if you have a Singapore driving license, you can drive in conditions anywhere in the world. That is certainly true. But for foreigners who have driven in other countries, I highly recommend getting a good motor insurance at least for the first year. Our drivers aren’t bad, they just require some getting used to. Okay. Quite a lot of getting used to.

So if you want the efficiency that Singapore is renown for, you’ll just have to get used to the driving culture. That, or get yourself a good car insurance cover!

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2 comments

  • I agree with the article, witnessed an accident where a driver of a bronze car rushed out into an active junction near Newton Rd, and got hit at the side by a motorcyclist. Dented the car really bad, and injuring the motorist. The driver did not even bother stopping to check traffic. Really irresponsible and careless.

  • Oh dear. That does sound terribly reckless. But recently with the spate of drink driving cases from foreigners, who knows who is really behind the wheel. I guess unless I have a Hummer, I’ll never feel safe on Singapore roads anymore!