Scooting into danger
Children crossing roads on their skate scooters are courting disaster, say safety experts
If you are from a country where motorists give way to pedestrians, don't assume this will be the case in Singapore too, said a sociologist.
It is one thing to let your child be independent on our roads and another to do what is necessary to prevent accidents from happening.
Two weeks ago, a toddler was almost hit by two vehicles after dashing across Bedok North Road.
His parents were criticised by others for not supervising him properly.
A parent also wrote to The New Paper, sharing her concerns about kids riding skate scooters unsupervised.
TNP then visited Holland Village and Lorong Chuan to observe children on bicycles and skate scooters.
In two hours at Lorong Chuan, we saw at least 10 children on these two-wheelers but most were accompanied by adults as they crossed the road.
Sociologist Tan Ern Ser, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore, said expatriate parents might seem more liberal with their children in terms of road safety because they come from countries with roads that are more pedestrian friendly. And they may assume that Singapore roads are just as friendly.
Prof Tan added that parents, regardless of ethnicity or nationality, should do what is best for their children and strike a balance between protecting them and letting go.
One child we observed, Tasha Yeo, knows never to cross the road by herself.
The six-year-old has also learnt that she must stop at the end of the pavement. And she crosses only when the green man is flashing and when all vehicles have stopped.
Tasha knows that if she does not follow these rules, she cannot ride her skate scooter outdoors.
She got the scooter in February as a birthday present and takes it for a ride several times a week.
TNP observed Tasha and her mother, Mrs Adelind Yeo, on Thursday when they were on their way to Tasha's grandmother's house a few streets away from their home in Lorong Chuan.
Mrs Yeo, 36, a housewife, said: "I let her ride on the pavement because I feel that doing so is fine. But she isn't allowed to cross the road alone as there always has to be an adult beside her."
She added that Tasha has not been involved in accidents involving her skate scooter and the most serious injuries her daughter has sustained from riding it were some scratches.
'SAFETY CANNOT BE COMPROMISED'
Driving safety expert Gerard Pereira, 57, said: "I understand that most parents have convenience in mind when they allow their children to ride scooters and bicycles, but they must remember that safety cannot be compromised."
The manager of the Singapore Safety Driving Centre said that as long as a scooter or bicycle is crossing the road, its rider, whether adult or child, should dismount and push it.
Mr Pereira noted that none of the skate scooter-riding children in photos which TNP took and showed him adhered to this safety precaution.
The one where Mrs Yeo had her hand around Tasha as she skated across the road at a pedestrian crossing seemed to be the "safest" of them all.
He stressed that it is safer to dismount and walk even if the traffic light is in the rider's favour.
This is because if a driver forgets to stop, the rider can get to safety without being hindered by their scooter or bicycle. If they are riding or skating across, they might trip or fall off their vehicle.
Mr Pereira highlighted one photo showing a boy cycling across at a pedestrian crossing unaccompanied.
He said: "Firstly, he was unaccompanied. Although the 'green man' was on and (thus it was) safer to cross (the road), just compare the height of the boy and the bus behind - Its driver might not be able to see him."
He added: "People assume that because it's a pedestrian crossing, they are safe and have the right of way. But they should always be alert."
Singapore Road Safety Council vice-chairman Gopinath Menon, 70, said: "Although following the rules means accidents are less likely, accidents still can happen."
As our roads are not yet bicycle- or skate scooter-friendly, and motorists can be quite aggressive, Mr Menon advises parents not to allow children younger than nine to ride or skate unsupervised.
He said: "As a general rule, responsibility always lies with motorists who are the 'big guys'. But the small guys (cyclists and pedestrians) should also follow the rules and look out."
As a general rule, responsibility always lies with motorists who are the 'big guys'. But the small guys (cyclists and pedestrians) should also follow the rules and look out.
- Singapore Road Safety Council vice-chairman Gopinath Menon
People assume that because it's a pedestrian crossing, they are safe and have the right of way. But they should always be alert.
- Driving safety expert Gerard Pereira
Accidents involving children
A toddler had a near brush with death when dashing across a pedestrian crossing at Bedok North Road.
A car and a taxi braked in time and stopped less than 2m away from the toddler, who is barely taller than the car's bonnet.
A video clip of the incident went viral.
Brothers Nigel Yap, 13, and Donavan Yap, seven, died in a tragic accident at the junction of Tampines Avenue 9 and Tampines Street 45.
Nigel had gone to pick his younger brother up from school and they were cycling home when a cement truck hit the bicycle they were on.
Sembawang Primary School pupil Lee Yu Heng, nine, died after he was hit by a car outside his school's temporary premises as he crossed a traffic crossing.
The accident happened as the Primary 4 boy was walking home alone from his school at Sembawang Drive to his family's flat at Canberra Road. The boy was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and succumbed to chest, head and spinal injuries.
Two pupils from Kong Hwa Primary School were seriously injured when they were hit by a van while on a pedestrian crossing.
Primary 5 pupil Leif Lieow, 10, and Primary 3 pupil Tan Heng Joo, eight, were walking home together when the accident happened at Old Airport Road.
Leif had head injuries and Heng Joo suffered severe abrasions on his face and body. Heng Joo's family's maid was walking behind the boys when the accident happened, but she was not injured.
In the same month, Primary 4 pupil Li Yun was run over by a tipper truck as he crossed a zebra crossing.
The nine-year-old was walking a few metres ahead of his grandmother and had almost reached the end of the zebra crossing when the accident happened.