This piece of news caught my eye in the papers the other day.
Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong replaced the jail time of a French motorcyclist who punched a driver, with a $2000 fine because he felt it was too excessive, as it was not unprovoked.
The guy Mille punched was a driver, a Mr Chong, who tried to squeeze his car between another car and Mr Mille's motorbike, bumping his bike and sending it into a dangerous wobble.
I am not going to defend the punching/road rage, but the exchange between Deputy Public Prosecutor Gillian Koh-Tan and CJ Chan was very telling.
The DPP argued that Mr Chong Yuen had only caused a slight wobble with his collision. Mille "was unhurt and the motorcycle was not damaged," she said.
To which CJ Chan replied, "Don't you know it's very dangerous to knock into a motorcycle because the rider could fall and be run over by a car. You see the accidents. Who gets killed? It's the cyclists and motorcyclists."
CJ Chan also said, "Why was he (Mr Chong) in such a hurry? Doesn't he know that it's very dangerous to knock into a motorcycle?"
Amen and amen.
And when CJ asked if the driver was charged for his dangerous driving, the answer was no.
They should have charged that driver. It is time we came down hard on drivers who endanger the lives of vulnerable users of the roads.
The DPP's remarks, "He was unhurt and the motorcycle was not damaged" are symptomatic of a society that does not place the "burden of responsibility" with the driver when it comes to collisions. So tell me, when is a driver considered endangering a cyclist or motorcyclist? When the bike is a pile of twisted metal and the rider splattered all over the tarmac?
The minute a driver so much as comes too close, it already dangerous. That is why there is a 1.5m minimum safety distance law in place (that is hardly enforced or adhered to).
If everyone followed the DPP's thinking, then every driver can just buzz a cyclist (drive very close) or graze his tires, as long as the fella doesn't fall down and die.
I am encouraged by CJ Chan's understanding of the dangers faced by riders. Now let's see some tougher action on drivers who put other road users in danger.
In New York and Delaware, they passed "Vulnerable User" laws to protect to protect pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchairs and other users of the roads that don’t have a metal cage surrounding them.
Here, I'd settle for stricter (or ANY) enforcement of the 1.5m-when-passing rule.
Straits Times, Aug 27, 2010
No jail for French m-cyclist By Khushwant Singh
WHAT Christophe Georges Andre Mille did was wrong, but the High Court noted that the French man had been provoked by some very dangerous driving by the motorist he punched.
Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong felt the one-week jail term imposed by a district court on the motorcyclist was too excessive and replaced it with a $2,000 fine at an appeal hearing on Thursday.
Mille, 33, a swimming instructor, was riding home in the right lane of Jalan Bahar towards Jurong West Avenue 6 at 5.30pm on Aug 27, 2008. Despite a car travelling alongside in the left lane, Mr Chong Yuen, 54, tried to squeeze his car between the vehicles.
Mr Chong's car bumped into the motorcycle sending it wobbling slightly. Mille's lawyer Suresh Damodara told the court that any wobble can sent a motorcycle out of control.
However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Gillian Koh-Tan insisted that Mille's violent reaction was disproportionate to the slight wobble the collision caused. 'He was unhurt and the motorcycle was not damaged,' she said.
Disagreeing, CJ Chan said': 'Don't you know it's very dangerous to knock into a motorcycle because the rider could fall and be run over by a car. You see the accidents. Who gets killed? It's the cyclists and motorcyclists.'
Outside the courtroom, Mille told reporters that he is relieved but remains disappointed that Mr Chong has not been charged with dangerous driving.
Today newspaper, Aug 27, 2010
Motorcyclist convicted of road rage wins appeal by Teo Xuanwei
SINGAPORE - In what was a rare decision to spare a road rage offender jail time, the High Court yesterday ruled that a motorcyclist who had punched the driver of a car had acted after being provoked.
The court heard that French national Christophe Georges Andre Mille, 34, was riding along Jalan Bahar on Aug 27, 2008, when Mr Chong Yuen cut into his lane, brushing against Mille's motorcycle and almost causing him to fall.
When the pair stopped at a traffic junction, a quarrel broke out and the Frenchman punched Mr Chong, 54.
When Mille rode off, Mr Chong followed him and stopped in front of the motorcyclist to prevent him from leaving. The car again collided into the motorcycle.
The Frenchman had been sentenced to a week's jail by a district court in March.
Appealing against the sentence yesterday, defence counsel Suresh Damodara said his client lashed out because Mr Chong's dangerous driving could have caused him to fall.
Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong agreed, saying that motorcyclists and cyclists were often the victims in fatal road accidents. "Why was he (Mr Chong) in such a hurry? Doesn't he know that it's very dangerous to knock into a motorcycle?"
While acknowledging that Mr Chong had made a "poor judgement call", Deputy Public Prosecutor Gillian Koh Tan argued that Mille should still not have assaulted Mr Chong because "the danger and provocation had passed" by the time the pair stopped at the junction.
But CJ Chan disagreed: "The danger might have passed but he must still be terribly provoked." Allowing the appeal, he fined Mille $2,000 instead.
The relieved Frenchman told reporters that, after having ridden here for five years, Singapore was the "worst place in the world" for riders.
Less than a year before his offence, he had been involved in an accident in which he suffered a broken collarbone and was unable to ride for six months. "If I stay longer here and ride, I will die on the roads," Mille said.
The former swimming instructor said he will return to France soon.