Lorry driver involved in fatal crash says GPS distracted him, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Lorry driver involved in fatal crash says GPS distracted him

The driver of a lorry involved in a crash which claimed the life of an NUS law professor said he lost control of his vehicle when he took his eyes off the road to look at his GPS.

Natarajan Mohanraj, 26, had earlier told a police officer at the crash site that the accident on July 7, 2023, happened after he fell asleep at the wheel.

The lorry he was driving veered across three lanes before crashing into oncoming traffic, including a car driven by Emeritus Professor Tan Yock Lin. 

The senior law professor was 70.

At the coroner’s inquiry on May 2, Natarajan, an Indian national, said he told the police officer he was sleepy as he was in a state of panic after the accident.

“But my family advised me to tell the truth after the accident, and that is why I told the truth.”

“I did not fall asleep at any point while I was driving that day,” he said through a translator.

On Aug 30, 2023, he changed his initial statement which he made on July 7.

Natarajan told the court that he was on the left-most lane in Upper Thomson Road when his GPS signalled that he needed to make a right turn.

He was driving from Jalan Buroh in Pioneer to Ang Mo Kio to pick up a colleague.

Natarajan said he checked his mirrors for passing vehicles before switching from the third lane to the first, or the right-most, lane. He said he was constantly checking the GPS on his phone as he was unfamiliar with the area.

At the right-most lane, he checked his GPS again. He told the court that at this point, he realised his right front tyre had mounted the divider.

He subsequently lost control of his vehicle.

Natarajan said he was travelling between 60kmh and 70kmh at the time.

He told the court that he had been driving for only around eight months at the time, and that he was not usually required to be behind the wheel.

“I don’t normally drive as I’m a general construction worker. I am only asked to drive at times,” he said, adding that he depended on the GPS as he was unfamiliar with the roads in Singapore.

The court heard the police were alerted to the accident at about 10am on July 7, 2023. The first police officer arrived at around 10.50am.

Prof Tan was trapped in the driver’s seat of the car after the crash. Officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) had to extricate him using hydraulic equipment.

He was taken to the hospital unconscious with large lacerations on his forehead, an open skull fracture and injuries to his thighs and ankles. He could not be resuscitated.

Prof Tan’s nephew and sister-in-law were in court for the inquiry. The case will be heard again on May 10.