People have been asking me what driving in Singapore is like since I started leasing a car three years ago.
Driving in Singapore is a lot like driving in Boston or New York City, in my opinion. It’s aggressive, and requires both offensive and defensive driving skills. While Singapore charges an absurd amount of money to own (or lease) a car, the roads are often extremely crowded. Taxis are the most common vehicles that share the road, followed by other cars and motorcycles.
Of all of these, the motorbike riders are the ones who scare me most. They cut in between drivers, both between lanes and between the cars in front and behind you. They cluster at red lights. They are a law unto themselves. I live in terror of hitting someone, as they zoom up beside me into my blind spot where there was no one there a second ago. I’m shocked that there were only 76 fatalities involving motorcylists in 2012 in Singapore.
I’ve only been involved in one traffic accident in Singapore. But unlike my fear of hitting a motorcyclist, a motorcycle hit me.
There is a myth about Singapore that people are extremely law abiding…which is true in some respects, but not when it comes to jay walking. People in Singapore jaywalk almost as much as Bostonians do. That there were only 44 deaths in 2012 is also pretty shocking to me as well.
That accident? The motorcycle that hit me? Hit a pedestrian first. It’s up for debate whether the person to blame was the jaywalking pedestrian or the motorcycle weaving through traffic. Me? I was just sitting at a red light, minding my own business.
- Drivers commonly switch lanes without signalling.
- Drivers who speed up to prevent you from switching into your lane when you signal for a lane switch.
- Drivers who switch 3 or 4 lanes at a time.
- Everyone forgets how to drive the second there’s rain.
- ERP–I don’t think anyone understands exactly what voodoo decides which ERP tolls are on and how much they’ll charge on any given day.
- Running low on money on your parking card and the way it buzzes.
- Parking spots are small–especially when you have a larger car like a Matrix.
- Forgetting to use your parking coupons, or running out.
- Speed cameras–unlike the US, you’re not going to get pulled over by a cop (or rarely would)–you’ll just get a ticket in the mail (or so I’ve been told–I’ve only had a parking ticket thus far)
- A friend remarked upon the drivers who own sports cars but clearly don’t know how to drive a stick shift.
I have the occasional moment of “which side of the road is correct?” or turning on my windshield wipers instead of my directional (although that’s most often right after a trip home, and I have that issue on both ends), but that’s really only an issue for Americans.
I love the way some malls have little lights above parking spots to tell you if they’re open or not. That saves a lot of time (although they do occasionally break). I like the signs that tell you as you’re driving toward a crowded area like Marina Bay how many spots are available at each mall/attraction. I like the signs that give you an estimate on how long it will take to drive to a location like Jurong or Changi. I like that most parking is covered, which means your car will be hot but not give you a third degree burn when you sit on the seat hot (unless you’re parking on the street or in a ticket lot, which won’t be covered).
Mostly, though, I love the convenience and freedom a car affords me. I get to control where I go, and when I leave. I know I have a ride when it’s raining. I like being able to put things in the car rather than drag them around with me for as long as I’m out. I like being able to keep the girls in car seats every time we’re on the road, which means they’re safer in the event of an accident. I like being able to get places I couldn’t get to otherwise, and faster to those places where public transit exists but is spotty.
For me, the benefits of having a car, particularly with the two kids, outweigh the negatives. At least until the next time a taxi uncle cuts me off.