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Life in Singapore
In Singapore, cars and other vehicles drive on the left side of the road, as in neighbouring Malaysia, due to its British colonial history (which led to British driving rules being adopted in India, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong as well).
The earliest roads in Singapore, after its founding in 1819, were laid out in the Jackson Plan of 1822 in keeping with Sir Stamford Raffles's directions. A grid system was adopted for the town with roads for carriages being 16 yards (15 m) wide, and those for horses four yards wide. Pedestrian paths along the roadsides were two yards wide, allowing room for two people to walk abreast and giving rise to the five-foot ways that came to be associated with the sheltered walkways along roadside shops.
These roads were fairly advanced for the time, with Macadam surfacing used on High Street as early as 1821. Roads were also constructed across the rest of the island, although they were usually unsurfaced. By 1842, Changi Point in the eastern tip was accessible via an extension of Geylang Road, while Pasir Panjang Road reached Jurong River in the west. The Bukit Timah Road was also extended to Kranji in the north by 1845, where the nearby Johor-Singapore Causeway was built almost 80 years later in 1924. Even so, only about 340 kilometres of road were built in the century after 1820, compared to more than 2,000 kilometres in the four decades after 1965.
As with many other urban areas of the time, the earliest modes of road transport were via ponies, and then horse-drawn carriages. Batak ponies from the Sultanate of Deli in Sumatra were introduced into the Malaya in the Dutch era, and were often called palonguins, and, later, gharries. They proved too small for the larger carriages introduced later by the Europeans, whose parades were used as fashion statements for the social elite around the Padang and were soon joined by their affluent Chinese and Arabic counterparts. These parades were such important networking opportunities that they provided that merchants were known to voluntarily pay to build the public roads or to speed up road construction. Collyer Quay, for example, was constructed purely by private funding.
The most well-to-do would typically own their carriages and horses, often employing native Indian servants (popularly known as Syces) to maintain them. Carriages for hire soon became available as well, with hackneys and gharries being the earliest forms of taxis in Singapore. Another early use of pony-drawn carriages was that of the Singapore Fire Brigade, the predecessor of today's Singapore Civil Defence Force.
A class 3 or class 3A licence permits the holder to drive motorcars weighing less than 3,000 kg when unladen and may not carry more than seven passengers, excluding the driver. In addition, the holder may drive a motor tractor or other motor vehicles with an unladen weight of less than 2,500 kg. A class 3A licence limits the holder to drive motor vehicles without a clutch pedal, typically automatic transmission cars, whereas a class 3 licence allows the holder to drive all motor vehicles. Class 3A drivers are not allowed to drive manual transmission cars.
Drivers must be 18 years old to qualify for a licence including applying for theory lessons. Once a driver passes the Basic Theory Test (BTT), she must apply for a Provisional Driving Licence (PDL), which lasts for six months, before taking practical driving lesson. However, a student can choose to apply and pass the Final Theory Test (FTT) before applying for a PDL and starting driving lessons. The last stage of obtaining a driving licence is the practical driving test, for which a student must have a FTT pass result slip and a PDL.
The driving theory tests consists of 50 questions to be answered within 50 minutes; to pass, you must answer 45 out of the 50 questions correctly. Results are shown immediately after the test on the same touchscreen monitor.
The Singapore Traffic Police require foreigners residing in Singapore for less than a year to have a valid foreign driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP) issued by the authorised body in their country of origin (e.g., AAA for US citizens). If an IDP is not available, you must present a copy of your foreign licence and its official English translation. Drivers from ASEAN member countries do not need an IDP.
Conversion to a Singaporean licence is often possible for certain classes of vehicles.
Foreigners who have obtained a Singapore licence are supplied with a limited-duration licence which needs to be renewed between one month before expiry to three years after expiry. After this period, the conversion procedure or licensing theory and practical tests must be taken all over again.
No renewal of a driving licence is required for Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents since the introduction of the photocard licence. The driving licence is valid to age 65.
After age 65, medical checkups are required every three years to renew licenses (Class 3/3A/2B/2A/2). For goods vehicles (Class 4/5), annual renewals requiring annual medical checkups are required until they reach the upper limit of 70 years old.
In Singapore, it is illegal to ride a motorcycle if the rider's name is not entered in the insurance contract. For each motorcycle, only one co-rider can be entered, but the procedure to change the co-rider is comparatively quick and easy.
The Driver Improvement Points System (DIPS) is a system whereby demerit points will be added to the driver's record. The system is meant to deter drivers from infringing the rules-of-the-road and, if they do, suspend their driving licence for a period of time. This system requires offenders to retest and pass the driving test again from the beginning.
If a driver accumulates 24 demerit points within a period of two years, he/she will be suspended from driving for three months. If he/she had been suspended before, he/she will only be allowed to accumulate less than 12 demerit points in a period of 12 months. Initially, this system was only used for Singapore driving licence holders until 1 November 1999, when the traffic police extended the system to foreign driving licence holders which states that any foreigner who accumulates 24 demerit points in two years will be prohibited from driving in Singapore for three months (first-time prohibition) and up to three years for subsequent offenders.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Singapore implemented an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) scheme to deter traffic congestion during peak hours at various roads. The ERP scheme requires electronic gantries to be placed over the road at designated locations and that cars be equipped with an In-Vehicle Unit (IU), a rectangular device pasted on the inside bottom right of the front windscreen from the driver's view, which will deduct the toll price from a CashCard. The CashCard must be inserted into the device, and to fail to do so is in violation of law. There is no charge for entering the area during certain non-peak times.
The cost of parking in many upgraded car parks can be deducted from the CashCard inserted in the IU of the vehicle, thus eliminating the need for the car park to have an attendant. Although the cost of parking (which is published)) is variable, parking costs tend to be much less expensive compared to London and New York. For example, the Centrepoint shopping centre charges a mere S$1 (approximately US$0.70) for the first hour, whereas garages in New York on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street charge between US$12 and US$26 for one hour.
Some car parks in Singapore are equipped with sensors that can detect whether the position is filled or not. This information is processed and displayed in signs around the car park, directing drivers to areas where there are free spaces.
During British colonial rule, Singapore's road rules and legislature which govern the design and layout of the road signs were directly imported from Britain. As such, most road signs in Singapore are similar to those in the UK. For example, warning signs are a depicted as red triangles and mandatory regulative signs are depicted as blue circles.
However, several aspects of road signage and traffic-calming measures adopted locally developed standards after independence. Major deviations are as follows:
2. In 1998, a system of black-on-yellow "curve alignment markers" were widely adopted and gradually replaced the British system of using white-on-black sharp deviation signs to delineate sharp turns.
3. In the late 1990s, all the circular regulatory signs and triangular warning signs were mounted to a one-size-fits-all square white backing board to improve conspicuity on a complex background like trees.
4. In the early 2000s, signs at road works are usually black-on-red-orange with diamond and rectangular shaped, which are similar to the Taiwanese system.
Most roads, bridges, roundabouts, and tunnels are marked with signposts with the road's name. The expressways in Singapore are not numbered (unlike most other countries), but are named. Road signs abbreviate the full name of the expressway into three representative letters, such as the PIE for Pan Island Expressway or the ECP for East Coast Parkway respectively.
Almost all road signs in Singapore are in English although many road names have a Malay origin. Typically, "Jalan" is used for "Road" and "Lorong is used for "Lane". Multilingual road signs exist, especially for historically ethnic enclaves like Chinatown or Little India, or for landmarks. For example, some directional signs pointing to Chinese or Hindu temples are bilingual or trilingual (English, Chinese, or Tamil). Bilingual signage dates to the early days of Singapore.
5. Curiously enough, even on the larger signs, road names are rarely spelt out in full. For example "road" is almost always "Rd" ("Bukit" as "Bt", "Boulevard" as "Blvd", "Street" as "St"). Exceptions include "lorong", "jalan", and roads that end with less common words, such as "walk", "hill", and "park".
In Singapore, it is illegal to turn left (into the nearest lane, due to the left-hand driving) during a red light. This rule, however, does not apply if a "Left Turn on Red" sign is present at the junction, allowing left turning motorists to turn left, provided they stop before the stop line and give way to pedestrians and incoming traffic.
It is illegal to turn right during a red light in Singapore.
Right turns are permissible only when one's lane has the green light signal and the opposing traffic lane, travelling in the opposite direction, is clear and favourable to execute a right turn. However, green turning signals (the outline of a right-pointing arrow) are installed onto some traffic lights.
These rules in Singapore are similar to many countries that employ left-hand traffic, and unlike countries which permit turns on red.
Driving while using a hand-held mobile phone is illegal, as is drinking and driving. Paragraph 72(1) of the Road Traffic Act (Chapter 276) stipulates that the "prescribed limit" of alcohol intoxication is (a) 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath; or (b) 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. However, it is also illegal to "drive while impaired".
The Singapore government accepts the crash safety standards of the EU and Japan. Cars made in the EU and Japan do not need to pass additional safety standards to be sold in Singapore. Cars may be privately imported into Singapore if they have an EU Certificate of Conformity or the Japanese Completion Inspection Certificate, both of which incorporate emissions and safety standards. Not all cars sold in Singapore have been tested by the EuroNCAP, a car-safety testing organisation jointly operated by several European government agencies, that crash tests cars that can be legally sold in several European countries.
Many regulations concerning buying and driving a car are administered by the Land Transport Authority, the successor to the Registry of Vehicles.
New car buyers are required to buy a Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which is valid for ten years. The term "bidding" is often used, but in practice new car dealers assist in the process. The fee of each COE is added on to the costs of a new car based on engine size—Category A is 1,600 cc engine and below; Category B is 1,601 cc engine and above—and is generally lower for Category A vehicles. There are provisions for a rebate of the COE if the car is scrapped before 10 years.
The COE costs have increased in recent years. The January 2012 COE for Category A was $48,112 and Category B was $67,889. The January 2013 COE for Category A was $87,109 and Category B was $92,901.
New Car Loan Measures cause COE costs to dip. As the government steps up in curbing the rise of owning a car. The Monetary Authority of Singapore will review the car loan policy to ensure that Singaporeans will have reasonable opportunities to buy a car with adequate financing.
The April 2013 COE for Category A was $62,497 and Category B was $62,000.
A car owner may apply for a portion of the Preferential Additional Registration Fee (PARF) if a car is de-registered before 10 years. The term "Additional Registration Fee (ARF)" is calculated from 110% of Open Market Value (OMV). If a car is less than 5 years old, then the PARF is 75% of the ARF.
The Open Market Value (OMV) of a vehicle is determined by Singapore customs and is equivalent to the price of the car, including freight and other incidental charges.
Vehicle licence plates in Singapore are the same 520mm x 110mm size found in many European countries. Red licence plates indicate that the car may be driven only during off-peak times unless a daily fee is paid. Off peak times are from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays and all day on Saturdays and Sundays. Since the end of January 2010, off-peak car usage is no longer restricted on Saturday, Sunday, and the days before public holidays. Off-peak licence plates costs less than regular ones. Standard licence plates in Singapore are usually black with silver or white lettering or the newer white front/yellow rear plate combination.
Car brands are typically sold by only one dealer although there are rare exceptions where two dealers sell the same brand. Several dealers have more than one location. Some dealers sell more than one brand, unlike the situation in some western European countries in the past where some manufacturers prohibited dealers from selling competing brands. Negotiation during car purchases is customary but limited due to the lack of competing dealers.
The limited size of the Singapore market results in some brands not offering the full model line in Singapore. Unlike in Australia, where the US Honda Accord and the Japanese Honda Accord (re-badged as the Acura TSX in the United States) are sold, only the Japanese Honda Accord is sold in Singapore. Some brands, such as Saab and Volvo (except the Volvo S60R) are only offered with automatic transmission even though manual transmission cars are sold in the car's home market.
Although car prices are high, servicing costs are reasonable compared to in the United States and Western Europe in terms of labour charges.
Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pick-up trucks are not as common in Singapore as in the United States and Canada. So, pick-up trucks in Singapore are relatively expensive compared to other Southeast Asian countries, and some dealerships do not import pick-up trucks like the Nissan Navara and Thai-built Ford Ranger at all.
Japanese car manufacturers have the largest market share. Some Japanese cars are imported from countries other than Japan. For example, the Toyota Vios is imported from Thailand, whereas the JDM version is called Toyota Belta. Initially the ninth generation Toyota Corolla sold in Singapore was a Japanese model, while the facelift version is a wider and longer Corolla Altis from Thailand.
Kei cars (like the Mitsubishi i, Subaru R2, and Suzuki Carry) are common in Singapore, but not as popular as in Japanese domestic market as most Japanese car manufacturers seldom release Kei cars in Singapore. Beside this, there are some grey imports of Kei cars like Daihatsu Copen.
European car manufacturers are well represented. On the more expensive segment of the market, European cars sold in Singapore include Aston Martin, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Maserati, and others. Skoda, Fiat, Renault, Peugeot and Citroen are among the less expensive European cars sold in Singapore.
American cars have a low market share. Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles are sold in Singapore, such as the Chrysler 300C, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Dodge Caliber, and Jeep Wrangler. Chevrolet markets only Korean-made Daewoo cars, but not its American-made models. Ford markets some cars from its European line, not its American product line. Even Subaru, a Japanese car maker, did not do well with cars made by a US-based subsidiary, Subaru of Indiana Automotive, which exported the US-made Tribeca to Singapore.
Used cars that are more than three years old cannot be imported into Singapore.
In 2005, there was significant local press coverage of the death of a car saleslady when a customer was involved in a collision during a test drive, reportedly after aggressive driving. The driver's licence was suspended in April 2007 for this incident although the court case was still pending at the time of licence suspension.
Because Singapore does not have a domestic automobile industry and thus has a very small domestic market for remanufactured and reconditioned auto parts, it has become an especially important aftermarket for businesses exporting automotive parts and accessories. This is magnified by high automobile turnover, a preference for new parts, and a high demand for "accessories, car-care products, prestige items, and new spare parts". In fact, Singapore has become a major automotive components manufacturing base, as several leading multinational corporations (MNCs) have established international procurement offices as well as their Southeast Asia distribution centres.
The peculiarities of Singapore's car market has made Singapore the second largest exporter of used cars in the world (approximately 100,000 cars exported per year) after Japan. Singapore exports its cars to many countries, including African countries. Used cars are often exported to other countries with right-hand driving, but there are exports to left-hand-driving countries as well. New Zealand allows used cars previously registered in Singapore to be imported without any modifications.
This is due in part to the reduction in the costs of COE and PARF between 2000 and 2005, which has incentivised owners to purchase new cars before their ten years is up. Previously, the COE and PARF represented around 80% of the cost of a medium-priced car like the Honda Accord. With the COE and PARF less expensive that in the past, in some cases the yearly drop in the COE and PARF rebate becomes significant compared to the pre-tax (OMV) price of a new car. Furthermore, with the PARF rebate starting to diminish after a car is five years old, the net amount of credit (similar to resale value or trade-in value) compared to the OMV becomes less favourable for owners of older cars. In contrast, in countries with low taxes, the most economical ownership strategy is to keep a car as long as possible until repair costs exceed a new car's depreciation costs or financing costs.
In Singapore, seating etiquette is informal and not everyone follows the same guidelines. Typically, if there is only a motorist and one passenger that single passenger will sit beside the driver in the front of the car rather than on a rear seat so that the passenger does not appear to have a chauffeur. However sometimes one will find a husband driving like a chauffeur while his wife sits in the rear holding an infant or young child. More affluent couples will both be in the front of the vehicle and their infant in a carrier on the rear seat or their young child will be on a child-seat positioned on the car's rear seat.
In Singapore, only right-hand-drive cars are allowed. There are exceptions for special-purpose vehicles, diplomatic vehicles, and foreign-registered vehicles, with the label placed at the back windscreen of the vehicles indicating "Left Hand Drive" to alert other motorist that the driver's seat is on the left side instead of on the right side.
Unlike some countries with a significant number of petrol dealers operating under their own, independent brand, petrol dealers in Singapore sell petrol under the brand of multinational companies. Royal Dutch Shell, marketing petrol under the "Shell" brand, has the largest retail network of stations. ExxonMobil has 23 Mobil stations and 19 Esso stations. Caltex, formerly a joint venture between Chevron and Texaco, but now a subsidiary of Chevron, which acquired Texaco has stations in Singapore. Singapore Petroleum Company, marketing petrol under the "SPC" brand also has significant numbers of petrol stations in Singapore.
Four grades of petrol are commonly sold in Singapore. Diesel and unleaded petrol with octane levels of 92, 95 and 98 are widely sold. Octane levels conform with European octane ratings and roughly correspond to American octane levels of 87, 90, and 93, respectively. Shell also market a fifth brand of fuel under the V-Power label, in addition to 98 octane petrol. 98 octane V-Power is marketed as having an FMT additive and "formulated to improve performance and responsiveness", and sells for approximately 15 cents per litre more than Shell's other 98 octane fuel.
Petrol stations frequently have loyalty schemes, such as Shell's Escape points.
The price of petrol is usually standardised such that the cost of a particular brand of fuel is the same regardless of which station sells it. Petrol is not rationed in Singapore.
Petrol is cheaper in Malaysia than in Singapore, but arbitrage opportunities are limited because cars registered in Singapore crossing over into Malaysia are legally required to have at least three-quarters of a tank of fuel.
As a result of the high petrol refining capacity in Singapore, Singapore is a net exporter of refined petroleum. ExxonMobil's refineries in Jurong Island and Singapore has a 605,000 barrel capacity. Shell's 500,000 barrels-per-day Bukom refinery exports 90% of its products to other countries. The Singapore Refining Company has a 285,000 barrel capacity refinery, a 50/50 venture between Chevron and SPC, though part of Chevron's stake was previously owned by BP. The United States, in contrast, has a shortage of oil-refining capacity, resulting in about 10% of petrol being imported as a refined product, as opposed to crude oil, some of it being imported from the Netherlands, a country that lacks significant oil drilling activity.
The wholesale price of Mogas 95 unleaded petrol is the regional benchmark, including the benchmark price for Australia. This is a result of Singapore having a large refining capacity. In 2005, Australia imported 29% of its petrol and diesel needs, of which 80% came from Singapore. The retail price of Australian petrol is thus influenced by the wholesale price of petrol in Singapore.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) submitted a report on Singapore's Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system to the World Bank. The report praised ERP as fair, convenient, reliable, and effective in congestion reduction. It also described its positive ramifications such as revenue collection and pollution control.
An expatriate advice website states that driving and owning a car in Singapore is very expensive.
Wired described Singapore as a "living laboratory for Intelligent Transport Systems, a catchall phrase for high-tech strategies to gather data, manage flow, and inform drivers of congestion ahead", noting that traffic "does indeed move noticeably smoother here than in American metropolitan areas of comparable size—Atlanta, for instance."
Several steps have to be completed before a car-owner can drive a vehicle in Singapore. A Certificate of Entitlement (COE) is required, costing more than S$80,000 to successful bidders. This permits ownership of the vehicle for a period of 10 years after which the vehicle must be scrapped or another COE paid for allowing an additional 5 or 10 years of usage. Only ten-year COEs may be further renewed; five-year COEs may not be renewed.
Certain roads and expressways in Singapore are subject to the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system.
COEs and the ERP system are intended to encourage people to use public transport such as the MRT instead of driving.