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 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.
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.
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?