Driving in Singapore can be a daunting experience especially if you're new. Singaporean drivers are known to be some of the harshest and most unforgiving. Changing lanes on a whim, failing to indicate, not giving way and blocking other cars from changing lanes are just a few of the common complaints you hear about local drivers.
While it might be scary at first, seeing how unforgiving our roads can be, the best way for a new driver to improve is to drive more often. Passing your driving test doesn't mean you'd be able to go on a 1,000km road trip the next day. Getting your license simply means you're ready to step out of the driving school and venture onto public roads to do more learning on your own.
And below are a few more tips on how you can improve further.
1. Drive with a friend
If you're not too sure about venturing on the roads alone just yet, why not ask a friend or relative who is more experienced to tag along in the passenger seat? This will help curb any anxiety you might have being on the road knowing you have an extra pair of eyes looking out for you.
Don't be afraid to ask your companion questions when you encounter challenging road situations as this will help you build up confidence if you encounter similar situations in future.
When you're just starting out, practice during daylight hours and it helps to practice on roads you're familiar with. Perhaps on small roads with minimal traffic near your home or even an industrial area on weekends where there's less traffic and wider roads.
The most important thing is to take it slow and remember that you're building a life skill so it's important to get it right. And as you gain more confidence, you can start driving alone and move on to roads with heavier traffic later.
2. Sign up for extra courses
Not everyone starts driving immediately after receiving their license. Some have to wait a few years before getting their car. Perhaps you just want more practice to build up your confidence. Whatever your reason might be, driving schools here offer both refresher courses and extra lessons for you to build up your driving confidence.
There are even advanced courses on improving your driving further like defensive driving courses that help hone your driving skills to get you prepared for emergency situations. This is great for those who don't have access to a vehicle or a chance to practice on their own.
3. Knowing your fears and weaknesses
Before getting into the car, it's important to figure out what aspect of your driving is giving you the greatest amount of anxiety. Below are some examples…
- Merging into traffic (e.g. joining an expressway)
- Busy cross junctions
- Parallel parking
- Changing lanes
- Driving next to larger vehicles (eg. lorries, buses, etc)
Once you've identified what gives you the most anxiety, you can start working on each of them slowly. And perhaps share it with your friend or driving instructor that's helping you to improve. The key thing to know is that it's better to take it slow and get it right.
Though drivers in Singapore are very impatient, don't let drivers behind you pressure you into making rash decisions (or movements) that might cause an accident like at a cross junction with oncoming traffic. Remember that your life is on the line if you make a mistake not the impatient driver behind you.
4. Coping with your driving anxiety
If just the thought of getting into the driving seat again scares you, there are ways to help you cope with that anxiety. Perhaps you can't get past an accident where you were involved and you're afraid it might happen again. Here are some tips to help you cope…
- Think about a particular place (or road) where you were happy driving and recreate it by going back to the same road and doing the same activity. This will help you associate driving with those positive experiences you had previously.
- If your fear stems from a past accident you had, the worst thing to do is to let that prevent you from getting back in the driving seat. Tell yourself how silly it is to be stuck in the past because of one incident. Getting back in the driving seat and forcing yourself to start driving again is the only way you can grow and get past those phobias.
- Practice some relaxation techniques to help you calm down when you're in the car. Take five minutes to do some deep breathing exercises before setting off. It's also hard to relax if the environment inside your car is noisy and chaotic. Ask your passengers to quiet down so that it's easier for you to concentrate on the road.
The most important tip to coping with your anxiety, especially getting back in the car after a previous accident is to start slow. Exposing yourself to your fear is the only way you will get over them. But do it in small steps each time and raise the level after each successful attempt and you will overcome your fears in no time.
5. Fear of getting into an accident
Sometimes accidents happen even when you're careful. And when it happens for the first time, it's common to not know what to do. But the most important thing is not to panic and follow the steps below…
- Check yourself and your passengers for injuries. Call for the emergency services if anyone is seriously injured. Take note of all the injuries suffered by all parties and take photos if possible.
- DO NOT move either vehicle (if the accident involved another party) until photos have been taken of the accident. Take as many as you can and try to capture both close up photos of the vehicles as well as the whole scene. Include road markings if they help to prove your case. Make sure to include the number plates of all vehicles involved in the accident.
- Call your insurance company for assistance. For drivers insured with Income's Drivo Car Insurance, the hotline number is 6789 5000 and operating hours are from 7am – 10.30pm daily.
It helps to have someone there to hold your hand through everything when you're in an accident. Knowing this, Income created Orange Force, a roadside assistance team for their car insurance policyholders.
With a fleet of 24 motorcycles on standby from 7am – 10.30pm daily, Income's Orange Force riders take an average of 12 minutes to arrive at an accident scene. Once there, they help protect policyholders' interests and assist in any post-accident settlement matters. If needed, they will also escort their policyholder to Income's Motor Service Centre or another approved workshop.
This is especially useful if you've never been in an accident before and prevents you from being taken advantage of by the other accident party or workshop.
One Income policyholder, Mr Hadi, shared that OF rider Ignatius Lim "helped broker a private settlement that was fair for both parties".
Elaborating further on the OF rider's zeal in ensuring the accident was successfully concluded, "I will never forget his drive to go above and beyond the call of duty for the private settlement by meeting up with me at my workplace just to get my signature."
Another policyholder, Mr AK found his OF Rider, Muhammad Ridzwan Roazlan's advice a big help, saying, "He advised me on what to do and the action that I needed to take clearly. His follow up assistance (twice) was invaluable. I would be at a loss if not for his guidance and advice."
Driving doesn't need to be scary
It's a fact that driving can be a scary experience given all the different skill levels and individual personalities we encounter on the roads. But with the right training and support from your insurer, it doesn't have to be an unpleasant experience and it won't be long before you're ready to take on your first road trip.