30 March 2020
DRIVING ETIQUETTE: Tips your instructor never taught

The curriculum for driving lessons in Singapore is far from comprehensive, and there are many other good practices that will make you a better driver on the road. Here are a few:

The ability to drive ourselves around is one of the greatest conveniences of modern society, but with it comes a great deal of responsibility too. There are a lot of things to take note of when you have to keep one and a half tonnes of steel, rubber, and glass under control, so if anyone tells you they know all there is to know about driving, well, we would probably steer clear.

It is a known fact that the curriculum for driving lessons in Singapore is far from comprehensive, and there are many other good social practices that could make you a better driver on the road. Here are a few:

Watch your spray

Windscreens get dirty all the time, whether it is from dust, rain, tree droppings, or the contents of a passing bird’s bowels – that is what windscreen washers are for. But while spraying your windscreen might seem a perfectly innocuous activity, many people do not realise that it can affect other road users.

If you are on the move, take a moment to check your mirrors before pulling back on that wiper stalk: the water bouncing off your windscreen and into the airflow can travel quite some way back and land on the vehicle behind you.

It’s a minor inconvenience if it is a car, as you will dirty it, it but poses a genuine distraction and hazard if a motorcyclist happens to be following in your wake. Furthermore, some drivers may interpret the spraying of water onto their car as an antagonistic move, so probably best not to do anything that might provoke them.

Keep left unless overtaking

Many drivers here have the misguided conception that as long as they are travelling at the speed limit, they have every right to occupy the right-most lane on the expressway; this could not be further from the truth.

Singapore’s Highway Code states that, “On a three-lane carriageway, you may keep to the central lane when the left-hand lane is occupied by slower moving vehicles. The outer (right-hand) lane is for overtaking only; do not stay in it longer than necessary after overtaking vehicles in the centre lane.”

To ‘camp’ in the right lane and refuse to let faster traffic past constitutes an act of road hogging, and is punishable by a S$1,000 fine, and a 3-month jail term.

The reason why road hogging is an offence is because it is a dangerous thing to do. Although you may be travelling within the speed limit, you are causing frustration to the drivers behind you, and are additionally adding to congestion further back up the road. 

Your refusal to let traffic pass will not stop drivers from wanting to do so, in fact, they are more likely to undertake from the left. The act of lane changing has been shown to be a cause for accidents, since numerous motorists would have to perform a lane change to get around you – that simply makes you a hazardous obstacle.

Turn off your headlights before parking

Given the density of people in Singapore, it is no surprise that carparks here are usually crowded. 

In addition to not snatching parking lots from other drivers who have been patiently waiting (we really hope this is etiquette you do already follow), what could help make the already stressful experience of parking a car a bit less fraught is to avoid making things too illuminating for other people.

We are referring to your lights, of course. There are plenty of places in Singapore – particularly outdoor locations – where the parking lots slope downwards from the middle of the road. Combine this with the super bright LED lights on most modern cars (or the extra-bright bulbs on irresponsibly modified cars), and it is easy to blind other drivers unintentionally while you reverse with your headlights shining right in their faces.

When parking at night, do consider turning off your lights just before reversing into your lot so to not dazzle other drivers and pedestrians. It isn’t necessarily a safety issue, but a little consideration still goes a long way.

Driving lessons teach only the very basics – there is far more to safe and courteous driving than can be taught while you are on your ‘L’ plates. If practised by everyone, a little etiquette will make the roads a much more pleasant place for all involved.