Tougher test for drivers of powerful cars?
After crash at Leisure Park Kallang, TNP asks experts if there should be restrictions on vehicles new drivers can operate
Should new drivers have similar restrictions like new motorcycle riders?
That question was raised by radio DJ The Flying Dutchman, whose real name is Mark van Cuylenburg. He was discussing the accident between a Nissan GT-R and a Toyota Altis at Leisure Park Kallang carpark F with co-host Glenn Ong during their morning show yesterday.
A clip of the accident on Saturday showed the speeding GT-R, driven by an 18-year-old who got his licence four months ago, crossing a stop line and slamming into the Toyota.
The GT-R was driven by an 18-year-old who got his licence four months ago. PHOTO COURTESY OF MR DESMOND
The hosts of ONE FM's #1 Breakfast Show argued passionately, with The Flying Dutchman pushing for restrictions on the kind of cars that new drivers should be allowed to handle.
He said: "If I'm 18, and you allow me to buy a $500,000 supercar, I'll buy it. Four wheels can cause more damage than two wheels. That's the problem."
On Monday, the police posted a statement on Facebook stating that they had arrested an 18-year-old on Saturday for his "suspected involvement in a case of dangerous driving and taking part in an unauthorised speed trial".
Said The Flying Dutchman: "These cars become weapons in the hands of people who don't know how to drive them."
Ong, however, felt that an experienced driver is not necessarily a safer driver.
He said: "I feel that what's in place is already sufficient. You screw up, you pay.
"You can't say that once something happens, you then have a blanket ban or restriction on one group of people."
The New Paper asked motoring experts whether the tiered licensing system for motorcyclists, where they must pass three tests before being allowed to handle bigger, more powerful machines, should be introduced for drivers as well.
Agreeing, Professor Lee Der-Horng, a transport researcher at the National University of Singapore, said regulations based on the horsepower of the cars should be used.
"We should have this rule (tiered system for motorcyclists) for drivers of high-performance sports cars, like the GT-Rs... Vehicle technology is so advanced these days, we should impose these rules."
By his own admission, the GT-R driver, Mr Herman Shi Ximu, said he has had only four months of driving experience.
Notwithstanding his lack of experience, Mr Gerard Pereira, operations manager of Singapore Safety Driving Centre, said Mr Shi, a full-time national serviceman, should not have been speeding at the carpark as "it's not a racing track".
He said it is advisable for drivers to gain five to six years of experience before handling a high-performance vehicle.
Mr Ong Kim Hua, president of the Motorcycle Safety and Sports Club, said the ruling should be kept simple and be based on horsepower and engine capacity.
"Simply put, as the driver gains more experience, his horsepower allotment should be allowed to increase progressively," he said.
Some, like Torque magazine editor David Ting, felt that age should not be a factor in determining a person's ability to handle a powerful car.
He said: "Age per se is not so much a factor as experience, ability, and situational awareness."
After all, some race drivers are so young that they do not qualify for a driver's licence on the road.
Mr Ting added: "Of course, it might not be the ideal situation if you jump straight away into a powerful twin turbo car like the GT-R. But there's no law against a newbie driving a fast car."
TNP understands that some dealers of supercars self-regulate by employing best practices, such as giving tutorials when inexperienced drivers buy or rent their cars.
And at least one marque, Pagani Zonda, will sell its cars only to customers who have proven they can handle supercars.
- Additional reporting by Arya Thampuran
Have new licence tier for drivers of fast cars
I just can't figure this one out.
In the video, the Nissan GT-R was not going that fast at the open-air carpark at Leisure Park Kallang.
Yet the 18-year-old driver ploughed into the side of a Toyota Altis on Saturday after overshooting a stop line.
Based on the video, the GT-R was travelling at about 70kmh before it hit the Toyota.
Thankfully, nobody was killed or seriously hurt - just bits of broken carbon fibre and a bruised ego in the case of the GT-R driver.
But what is shocking is how a driver with a four-month-old licence can get behind the wheel of a car that is capable of going from zero to 100kmh in about 3sec.
Though the police arrested him on suspicion of dangerous driving and taking part in an unauthorised time trial, he has not broken any law in driving the GT-R.
Unlike motorcyclists, anyone with a valid Class 3 licence, regardless of age, skill level or experience, can drive any car, even a supercar with a 6,000cc engine that produces 950 brake horsepower (bhp).
Imagine a beginner handling such a car on our roads.
In a perfect world, the driver must first attain the required skills and experience before handling such a monster.
But we live in a imperfect world, as evidenced by the carpark incident.
The GT-R driver clearly lacked the skills and experience to be in full control of the up-to-560bhp sports coupe.
He also was not able to recognise that a carpark is the last place to be driving at 70kmh.
Housing Board carparks, for instance, have a speed limit of 20kmh.
So why not impose the tiered motorcycle licensing system for cars, too?
It is a progressive way to build a rider's experience and confidence on the road.
Under the law, a rider must pass two phases of yearly testing - Class 2B (motorbikes not exceeding 200cc), then Class 2A (201cc to 400cc) - before being allowed to sit for the Class 2 test (above 400cc).
Without such tiered motorcycle testing, I suspect there would be more motorcycle fatalities and injuries.
Giving a new rider the key to a modern 1,000cc sports bike capable of the century sprint in 3sec (just like the GT-R) is akin to giving him a loaded gun.
Likewise, it would be reckless to let inexperienced drivers handle cars that can turn into raging beasts at the click of a button.
Those who want such cars must attend advanced driving courses to get acquainted with how these cars perform in various scenarios and conditions.
But I fear that most will not bother to do so unless compelled by law.
As the experts say, there is no need to complicate things.
Adding one more tier to the current Class 3 licence, with the bhp to be decided by the licensing body, should be sufficient.
Everyone should be able to drive the car of their dreams, but they must first prove themselves worthy.
- ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF