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Widely viewed as a luxury, is driving in Singapore all fun and games? We share some of the downside of driving on this sunny island.

03 Aug 2018


As car enthusiasts, we enjoy a range of activities relating to cars. While some love to wash and detail their car to showroom standards, others seek the unrealised potential of their cars. What all of us can agree on would be the joy of driving.

Unlike those who view it as just another mode of transport, driving is an intimate activity, the delicate interaction with and control over the machine that we love. Yet, like how a dash of the wrong ingredient can spoil the soup, external factors can easily spoil the enjoyable aspects of driving. Many might feel that the day-to-day driving experience in Singapore leaves much to be desired.

Here are eight of the worst things about driving in Singapore.

Traffic jams are a common sight on our roads during peak hours
1. Too little space, too many cars

Despite the various policies in place, such as Certificate Of Entitlement (COE) and Electronic Road Pricing (ERP), to control the population of cars and traffic, the scarce land space and limited roads in Singapore remains to be a huge constraint for the current population of vehicles sharing the roads. This results in horrible traffic conditions especially on major expressways during peak hours.

Chances are you are either sitting in a jam on the way to work or are having a hard time navigating through the sea of slow moving 'turtles' trying not to miss your exit, needless to say, the heavy traffic is definitely one of the worst aspects of driving in Singapore.

ERP: One of the many costs asssociated with driving in Singapore
2. Nothing comes cheap

Although Singapore's COE system is renowned worldwide as the significant cause of our ridiculous car pricing, what's not as widely known is that the cost incurred from driving in our city isn't insignificant as well. Being much costlier than taking public transports, it is easy to see why driving in Singapore is widely considered as a luxury.

Step into a coffee shop and it would not be unusual to overhear laments on the seemingly ever-increasing petrol cost, parking fee and, of course, the ERP, which was put in the spotlight by local movie productions such as Jack Neo's 'Money No Enough 2', which struck a chord with many Singaporeans. The word 'cheap' has no place in the context of driving in Singapore.


Having someone cut right in front of you is an irritating occurrence that happens way too often here
3. The fast and the furious

The hectic lifestyle of Singaporeans often manifest on their driving style. While some may be in an actual rush, zipping in and out of lanes without much care for others, there are a handful of drivers who refuse to give way as though there's a prize to be won. Needless to say, there are also a rising number of drivers who are too busy on their phones to observe the niceties when interacting with other road users.

Despite the perpetual rat race that we are all in, making the effort to practice a little courtesy and consideration towards others would go a long way in making driving in Singapore much more enjoyable not only for them, but you as well.

All it takes is to simply give this stalk a nudge to signal your intention
4. Mind-reading or mindless driving?

For reasons unknown, it seems as though the majority of our local vehicles doesn't come equipped with turn signal stalks. Drivers assume their fellow road users have some sort of telepathic ability and love to change lanes without any indication, causing a rude shock to whichever poor soul they cut right in front of.

You can also bet that almost every time you signal your intention, there would be other drivers who put their feet to the floor and make sure to close that gap you are going for. While the lack of signalling might be a habit that is prevalent around the world, this is something I believe stems from the uniquely Singapore's 'kiasu' mentality. 

The introduction of private hire vehicles added more cars to the already packed roads
5. Cars with that blue rectangular decal

Traditionally, cars are a costly mode of transportation that is not within reasonable grasp of many. It's one of the reasons that the COE system works so well, as the high cost of cars dissuades potential buyers. Private hire car services opened the floodgates, filling up the already packed streets with potentially overworked drivers who slog away for hours at end to make a living. It certainly doesn't help that most of them are perpetually distracted by their mobile devices, anticipating the next job.

Private hire drivers often rely on GPS devices, which we all know don't work flawlessly, often resulting in last minute abrupt lane changes and turns, which endanger other road users.

Road works disrupts the flow of traffic and make driving much more challenging
6. Three lanes become one

Being a small country packed with way too many cars puts a huge amount of stress on the roads and wears out the surface prematurely, which calls for frequent maintenance, meanwhile the endless upgrading of infrastructures and new expressways only make matters worse and all these result in the seemingly endless road works littered around our city-state. The tiny selection of alternate routes also mean that any obstruction would result in a huge impact on the traffic condition. 

Not only do road works diminish the already lacking real estate for cars to travel on, they also force drivers to change lanes, causing disruption to the traffic and one's mood.

Modifications have to be LTA-approved or run-ins with LTA enforcement officers would prove to be costly
7. Is your car 'LTA-friendly'? If it isn't, LTA sure wouldn't be friendly

This applies more for enthusiasts who own modified cars, or has the intention of doing so. If you have read our article 'Six ridiculous car mod regulations that make no sense', you should be clear about Singapore's harsh stance on car modifications. Personalising your car no longer only involves taking a fashion risk. Skirt the law and you may just get into trouble at one of the roadblocks.

If you own a modified car, driving can be a stressful affair when you have to constantly look over your shoulder for the dangers of getting slapped with a hefty fine following a stop, which could throw a wrench into your plans for the day.

Strict and regular enforcement of laws and regulations means you are kept on your toes at all time
8. Are we all in a pressure cooker?

Going through all these points reiterate just how stressful the environment in Singapore is when it comes to driving. Not only do you have to suffer from the traffic congestion while looking out for inconsiderate drivers, the stern enforcement of traffic rules and regulations make sure that you are kept on your toes all the time. Already an intense activity, which tests your concentration and cognitive abilities, these additional stresses make driving in Singapore much less pleasant.

The scarce land space here means interaction with other drivers are plenty, there are simply no long relaxing roads that weave around beautiful sceneries for you to enjoy a slow paced leisurely drive (or a fun, spirited drive). Every one of us sharing the road are facing similar circumstances, the intense stress could make one irritable and affect our judgement on the roads, this simply reinforces the need for us to be more considerate to other road users, and do our part to make driving more enjoyable for everyone.   

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