Despite its small population, Singapore ranked fourth among Asian countries whose drivers were involved in fatal and injury crashes in New Zealand. Figures show around 50 Singaporean drivers were involved in such crashes between 2012 and 2016.
China was first with close to 350 in the same period, followed by India and the Philippines, an “Overseas driver crashes 2017” report by New Zealand’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) showed.
When non-Asian countries were added to a Top 20 list, Singapore, whose drivers were mostly short-term visitors using rental cars, came in at 12th. The report listing causes of road accidents, crash types and locations may be the only indication of Singaporeans’ driving behaviour overseas.
In the wake of overseas road fatalities, Singapore Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay urged Singaporeans to take more precautions when driving abroad and understand overseas driving culture.
Like many others, he was shocked by the “back-to-back” fatal crashes in the last month in which 11 Singaporeans died. He said: “There seem to be more fatalities this year. Of course, more people are now travelling overseas. That means the roads are getting crowded too.”
The New Zealand MOT report showed that in 2016, overseas drivers were involved in 24 fatal road crashes, 114 serious injury crashes and 506 minor injury crashes. From 2012 to 2016, 6.2 percent of all fatal and injury crashes there involved an overseas driver.
In Tasmania, Australia, a 2015 government report showed 2010 crashes between 2010 and 2014 involving international tourists and interstate visitors. International tourists accounted for 23 percent of the crashes.
Overseas drivers get into accidents when they lose control of their vehicles and fail to adjust to New Zealand’s road rules and conditions, the MOT report stated.
Mr Tay said: “A lot of people just ‘rent a car and ‘go’. But accidents can happen in seconds. The onus is on drivers to ensure that risk factors and routes are studied.”
While figures were unavailable for traffic accidents involving Singaporeans in Europe, a European Commission spokesman said there is a seasonal pattern – road fatalities peak around July and August.
Mr Tay advised Singaporeans on holiday to be well-rested before driving abroad. Staying alert is vital as driving conditions overseas can change due to weather. Drivers should also have rest periods especially on long drives, and check their vehicle’s roadworthiness.
On Tuesday, ABC News reported that Australian MP Sarah Henderson had called for a review of tourist car-rental standards, and suggested making it compulsory for all international tourists hiring cars to watch safety videos.
A fatal accident involving Singaporeans on New Year’s Eve in Phatthalung, southern Thailand, left investigation officer Mitikom from the Royal Thai Police baffled.
There were road signs alerting motorists to the winding road conditions where a 400cc motorcycle ridden by Mr Ng Yong Sing, 27, had crashed into a barrier in Srinagarindra district. The impact threw Mr Ng and pillion rider Vanalyn Png, 22, into a drain.
Inspector Mitikom, 43, told The Sunday Times in Thai: “It had been drizzling then. The rider lost control and skidded in the right-hand bend. In the last year, there were two other accidents near the same location.”
In Malaysia, speeding may have been a factor for Singaporeans being killed on roads there, said Dr Wong Shaw Voon, director-general of the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research, in a 2014 ST report.
It was reported that over 30 Singaporeans die each year on Malaysian roads.
Even seasoned motorists can be caught off-guard, said biker Surinderpal Singh, 39. In 2005, Mr Singh, who has ridden in Europe, Asia and Latin America, had a close shave with a motorcyclist who cut into his path on a highway in southern Thailand. “There was nothing I could have done,” said the logistics officer. “If the Thai rider had been a little fast, all of us would have been injured or killed.”
He escaped with a broken mirror and damage to his bike’s bodywork.
When things do go wrong, it is important not to panic, said civil servant Brian Yeoh, who was in a crash in 2009 on the Malaysian North-South Expressway when a car ahead braked suddenly in the rain. The Singaporean braked instinctively but his car spun, crashed through a guardrail, flipped and landed in a ravine. Luckily, he and his three passengers were unhurt.
Mr Yeoh, 45, said: “My lesson is that the unexpected can still happen, and when it does, you must remain calm for as long as you can.”
Related story: 17 tips for driving overseas
Related story: How to keep your child or baby entertained on road trips