Friday, May 25, 2007

Tragic Accident

I am truly saddened and angry to read of the tragic, tragic accident involving 8-year old Jadon Sim at the Simei MRT station a few days ago. Saddened because I myself am a father of three and feel for the pain of Jadon’s loved ones, and angry because this is such an easily preventable ‘accident’.

What is an Accident?

I have come across a definition of ‘accident’ as something that has a low degree of expectedness, preventability and intention to cause it. If that’s the case, then the Simei accident can hardly be called one. From the description in the newspapers, you will agree with me that if the authorities in charge of that area had been safety conscious, they would have easily seen that it was a very hazardous situation. If the driver of the truck had taken a few basic precautions, such as having an assistant to act as a lookout, which he is supposed to have anyway, the accident could easily have been prevented.

I think Singaporeans, especially we parents, should band together and demand that our government do something to prevent a recurrence of such a tragedy. For one, please write to the government’s feedback unit (Reach) at this address to voice your concerns and unhappiness. You can also write to your member of parliament to demand that he or she do something.

There are lots of other places just like this one or even worse. The stretch of Bencoolen Street just in front of Albert Complex is one such example. Whenever, I go to Sim Lim Square to do my shopping, I noticed that there is ALWAYS at least one goods truck parked along the bus lane there. Not only does it pose an inconvenience to other road users, it also created a very hazardous situation.

How to Prevent Such Accidents? To prevent such accidents we should apply what is called the 3E’s – Engineering, Education and Enforcement.

Engineering

Engineering refers to the operational system and design of the work area. A look of the sketch provided by the Straits Times will tell you that the area was poorly designed. How can you have a pedestrian pavement located so close to a goods vehicle parking area? Don’t forget, the place is also likely to be very noisy and thus affect the pedestrian’s ability to hear warning sounds, such as the sound of a reversing truck. Certainly the planners could see that the pedestrians are in a very vulnerable and unprotected position when walking in this area. In the first place, from the photo in the Straits Times, it is not very clear whether or not this was a designated pedestrian walkway or a truck parking/unloading area.


Another thing the management should do is to provide a guide to direct the truck driver and pedestrians. Please don’t use high labour cost as an excuse. When I was in Tokyo, where the labour costs are much higher, I noticed that they always positioned a smartly dressed inspector (full uniform with cap and white gloves) to direct and warn the pedestrians when a truck is entering and exiting a construction site.

Education

Safety training should be provided to all truck drivers. They should be taught defensive driving and what the Japanese call ‘kiken yochi training’ or KYT which means danger prediction or hazard-spotting training. Lots of case studies should be used not only to increase their awareness, but to remind them of the tragic consequences of accidents.

Enforcement

Finally there is enforcement of the rules and regulations. When people knowingly violate the law, stern action should be taken. Blogger,
Epilogos has noted that Singaporeans are becoming more and more defiant when it comes to complying with the rules and regulations.

Another funny thing in Singapore is that the traffic police seem to be getting friendlier whilst the traffic offenders are getting more aggressive. More than one occasion, I have seen a traffic police looking all courteous and smiling, and apologetic even, when confronting a reckless driver, who ironically looked angry and indignant. How can this be? The traffic cop is the one who should be giving the offender a tongue lashing! Maybe they have been attending too much GEMS (Go the extra mile service) training.

Finally, I want to ask the question that this
blogger asked; Must we wait for another tragedy?

13 comments:

household name said...

Hi,
Your 3E's approach is a good one. That place does indeed appear to have very poor design. I thought I read that vehicles reverse onto the pavement to unload goods, which is quite incredible. Actually, now that I think of it, many buildings have this problem. The loading/unloading area is unrealistically small so goods vehicles end up obstructing traffic , and pedestrians have to weave through all the 'any old how' parked vehicles. The Takashimaya loading bay is an example that comes to mind. (not sure if it's been improved as I haven't walked past it for some time)

I think one problem is that the planners/designers are not the users and so they do not see it from the users' perspective. It's the same with our expressway and road design, bus lane/bus bay location, and also that 'experiment' to have pedestrians and cyclists share the pavement.

There are many accidents waiting to happen. And every one that actually happens is tragic because it could have been prevented, as you have pointed out.

zen said...

Having worked my whole life career in a highly dangerous cargo operation place, many accidents occurred which include fatal ones, and I must say almost all were due to human negligence. There was a case where a stevedore took a break, went down the ship, hid behind stacks of bundled timber piled high, to smoke. The upper-most bundle suddenly fell down crushing him. It appeared like an act of "God', but wait a minute - why were the bundled timber stacked so unusually high, and in such a haphazard manner on uneven ground? - net result stiil negligence.

peter said...

Folks

Dont you think everything in Singapore is "tailored-fit".

(1) I was driving Bukit Timah Road in front of the old rex Cibnema. Imagine there are 4 lanes including a bus lane. The rightmost lane closest to the Canal is so narrow thta my poor Jap car cannot safely pass through without giving way to a bus on the second lane. Now how in the world our LTA ever come up with 4 lanes when in the 1960s, it was just 2 lanes up and 2 lanes into town?

(2) If you drive on top of the Sheares Bridge coming up from the Rochore Flyover, on the elft lane are 2 converging lanes. That's OK until you find at the foot of Sheares Bridge (towards Waterside) there's another converging lane. How did that happen? Well I observe that prior to the IMF Meeting in Singapore, LTA decided to redraw "better lane designs". Before all these happened, break-down vehicles (by law??) have to park on the left side. Am I correct? Today with the new lanes drawan up, there's a big shoulder on the right side (nearest to the concrete divider). So where in the world do you think you should stop your car if there is a breakdown?

(3) Pedestrian at zebra corssing dont give a heck to passing cars. They (with those electronic gadgets in their ears) dont give a damn to on-coming cars. They continue their walk with their eyes in front (neve rlooking left or right)as the safety rules teach us. Our attitutde stinks.

(4) Coming back to the ECP (driving towards Marine Parade), you find on lane 2 moptorists who leave such a big gap that 10 cars can safely maneuver in front of it. No wonder driving on the ECP is no longer a breeze. Again poor attitude problem or lack of social grace? Maybe LTA will soon impose a toll to solve the congestion. Like the leaders say, there's no better mechanism thatn a pricing model.

(4) I think LTA should update its driving test model. Nowdays, when you come in from a minor road into a highway (e.g. ECP), you step on your accelerator and cut into the main traffic on the highway. I thought we were supposed to stop the car and look for traffic on the right first?

At the end of the day, I prefer Malaysian driving attitude (drive first and talk later).

(5) I thought there was a law that says for heavy vehicles (> 3 tons)carrying goods, you need a driver and a navigator. Law changed?

(6) In my neighbourhood, pedestrians walks in the middle of the road (again with electronic gadgets in their ears) as if the car must give way to them. To me this is attitude problem.

peter said...

O dear me, I forgot to add this (again from observation)

Have you tried reversing your car our of a carpark lot and find pedestrains try to walk between your car and the car behind you? I thought in my mother's time, our parents taught us to stay away from danger and this means when you see a vehicle doing just that you walk far away from it. Why in the world would you try to walk close to a moving vehicle? Hero? Not afraid of danger?

As a driver and a pedestrian, I have to be extra careful because I put myself in the other person's shoes.

zen said...

My sister pat was staying in London for a period of time. One day she spotted a double decker bus, the one she was about to take, but she was quite a distance from the bus-stop. So she ran quickly towards the bus (Singaporean style), afraid that the bus may scoot off without her. She climbed abroad, still panting and grasping for air. The bus driver looked shocked and uttered: "madam, why do you need to run like this? It is very dangerous. Don't worry. I will wait you to board my bus safely". This is really safety first attitude. What about the attitude of Singapore bus drivers?

aiyah nonya said...

S'pore bus drivers - I have seen a group of students waiting to cross the road at the traffic lights. The bus they were waiting for came at the opposite side of the road. They patiently waited for the light to turn green. When the light turned green, they ran across waving their hands at the bus. By the time they reached the bus stop which is just a short distance from the traffic lights the bus moved off. The driver refuse to open the door even though there were no other buses behind it. That is one of the bad attitudes of the drivers. Not all of them are like that. Thank goodness.

When I was in Perth many years back. The driver of the bus will help a mother with a stroller up the bus. Wait for their passengers and always have a smile on their face.

The same with the buses in New York. The drivers will help the handicaps on wheelchairs up the bus.

All this waiting and helping the passengers take up time. This will sometimes cause them to be behind schedule.
Over here in S'pore everyone is in a rush. Time is money. If the bus is late the passengers will complain. The driver will get a earful from his supervisor who in turn will had got one too form the management.
And if the worker is late for work because of the bus he will get it from his boss.

So, maybe we should all 'relax' abit and hopefully the world will be a happier place. Utopia !

Victor said...

This is a very well-articulated post that hits the nail (or rather, nails) on the head. Once again, you never disappoint with your articles.

I would like to add something to "education". In addition to educating the truck drivers, I think citizens and decision makers need to be educated too. We need to be civic-conscious and raise the alarm whenever we see a potentially dangerous situation, just like what I did when I saw a huge rubbish bin obstructing the view of a zebra crossing. (Make no mistake, I actually noticed that the bin was there for months before I complained, so I was guilty of being indifferent too. But still, I hold the honour of successfully getting the responsible party to remove that danger. Hehe.)

zen said...

Some years back at around 10 pm at night, I saw a bus (no 74) moving towards a bus-stop to drop off a couple of passengers, and I was some distance away. So the usual thing, I ran for it, and the driver knew that I was approaching by viewing through the rear mirror. When I reached the front door, he deliberately closed the door. I knocked the door asking him to open, guess what? He looked the other way, pretending that he didn't see me, and sped off. I thought to myself I had not report a bus driver a for long time, it was the last straw and I had to report him. Up to this day I do not relish reporting against service workers for fear that they may lose their jobs or having their bonus cut whereby affecting their families, but sometimes do we have any choice? Nowadays, I notice that they like to bully school children (by yelling) and are very watchful against older men. They are a cunning lot, knowing that retired people (like me) have all the time in the world to put things 'right'.

Lam Chun See said...

Victor is right of course about educating the public. Due to constraint of space and time, I limited myself to cover only those parties immediately linked to an accident. And I believe Spore truck drivers are the weakest link in the safety chain.

Lam Chun See said...

I think if all Sporeans are observant and civic-conscious like Victor and report all these unsafe situations and pressure the authorities to take action, we will have less tragedies on our roads. Saves time and money too.

f r said...

I feel we should have this safety conscious awareness in us. It should be a habit - whether we are on the road, at the bus-stop or crossing a car-park we should be alert and be conscious of happenings around us.

Some pedestrians are too lax when crossing the road, strolling as if they are in a park and some don't look left and right when crossing a car-park.

I would support stiffer penalties for drink, dangerous, reckless and inconsiderate driving and speeding.

Kelly said...

The boy is named Jadon Sim, he was my best friend.

Carol said...

Always makes me sad whenever I hear stories of young child being killed from unfortunate accidents.