Singapore Breaking News
Singapore Breaking News
SINGAPORE: For many parents who drive their children to school, traffic snarls and frayed tempers are everyday occurrences.
Inconsiderate behaviour like blocking the way, cutting queues and parents taking their time at drop-off points are just some of the instances that contribute to the all-around stress, parents told reporters.
“It’s not the part going from your home to the school. It’s always the last 500m outside any school in Singapore. You end up probably spending more time there than you do on half your journey. It’s always that portion which can get a bit hairy,” said Mrs Karen Goh.
“There’s always a golden window. So if you arrive during the golden window, you probably don’t get stuck in the jam very much, it’s very minimal. If you arrive past 7am, traffic just builds up exponentially so then you get stuck for 10 minutes."
And if you miss the window or leave home just a few minutes late?
"You just have to pray," Mrs Goh said with a chuckle.
The mother-of-two and her husband have worked out that making separate trips to Methodist Girls’ School and Anglo-Chinese School (Primary), which their daughter and son attend, is the best way to handle the daily school run.
“If we have to take them together, which we have before, one arrives very early and the other one is on the verge of being late. So we figured maybe it’s less stressful for everybody in the morning if we take them separately,” said Mrs Goh.
On Tuesday (Jan 11), a 61-year-old man was arrested for a rash act causing hurt after an incident outside Red Swastika School.
In the video widely circulated online, a white car was stopped from entering the primary school. The car then inched forward several times, pushing against the security officer standing in front of it.
According to the Union of Security Employees (USE), the car had a valid label to enter the school, but had cut the queue of cars waiting to enter, and moved his vehicle dangerously even when the security officer was standing in front of it.
The 62-year-old security officer Mr Neo Ah Whatt sustained “minor injuries” and police investigations are ongoing.
Mr Neo is “quite well-liked” by students and parents, executive secretary of USE Steve Tan told reporters on Wednesday.
“We asked him whether there are people who abuse him or scold him, is this the first time and so on. Broadly speaking, his recollection was that he’s very happy working at the school. You have the odd occasion of people challenging the rules, but this is his first time encountering something as egregious as this,” he added.
THE SITUATION AT RED SWASTIKA SCHOOL
The parents of Primary 1 and 2 students at Red Swastika School have car labels indicating that they are allowed to enter the school to drop off their children, said Mr Aylwin Lam, whose two children attend the school.
All the other parents are expected to use the HDB car park next to the school, where children enter by the school's back gate, he told reporters. There are typically two security officers at the school gate and one more at the exit to help pedestrians and children cross the road safely and signal to cars to move off.
Mr Lam described the 61-year-old driver’s actions in jumping the line as an “everyday occurrence”.
“There are people who will take the chance, use the yellow box to come in from the second lane,” he said.
“And the worst thing is when they try to come in from the second lane, people like me who won’t let them come in because they didn’t queue, (these cars) will (create a) jam. They will just wait there for their chance to turn, and they will block the entire lane,” said Mr Lam, adding that he saw someone do the same thing just two days ago.
“Just before the area where the Bentley turned in yesterday, one of these cars actually did that. He blocked the entire lane because he was trying to filter into our lane to get into the school.”
When reporters visited Red Swastika School on Wednesday morning, the line of cars along Bedok North Avenue 3 started to build at 7am. The main gates to Bedok Green Secondary School, Red Swastika School, and the entrance and exit of the HDB car park where parents drop off their children are all located along that road.
Red Swastika School only allows parents to start entering the school gates at around 7.10am and by then, reporters observed that the innermost lane was already packed with cars waiting to turn into the HDB car park or the schools along Bedok North Avenue 3.
Reporters also spotted several cars cutting into the first lane from other lanes, similar to what the 61-year-old driver did on Tuesday morning.
After exiting from the HDB car park, several drivers used the yellow box at the exit to cut across several lanes to the U-turn on the outermost lane of Bedok North Avenue 3.
In some instances, they even stopped in the boxes although there were no cars in front of them, sometimes occupying two lanes and holding up traffic.
Stopping in a yellow box is considered a traffic offence outside Silver Zones and School Zones. Owners of light vehicles and heavy vehicles can face fines of S$100 and S$150 respectively.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in response to reporters queries in 2020 that markings like yellow boxes are used to deter vehicles from stopping and obstructing traffic along a section of the road “where appropriate”.
LTA has also introduced different traffic management and road safety measures, like traffic signs, road humps and road markings to remind motorists to slow down near schools.
To manage traffic flow, some schools deploy their own traffic marshals and adopt staggered reporting or dismissal times where possible, said LTA at the time.
“Where necessary, LTA deploys parking wardens to guide traffic during the affected hours, to complement these measures,” said the authorities in the statement.
PROTOCOLS IN PLACE: MOE
In response to reporters queries, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Thursday that schools have protocols in place to manage “vehicular movement” within the campus during assembly and dismissal periods.
For example, schools may deploy traffic marshals to direct cars coming into schools during peak periods and have designated places for drivers to pick up or drop off students, said the ministry in its response.
“At schools’ discretion, school staff may be deployed at locations such as signalised pedestrian crossings and drop-off points to ensure students’ safe commuting. Parent volunteers may also help to encourage good road safety habits by reminding students to look out for traffic.”
Schools encourage students to use public transport or school buses for primary schools to travel to and from school, said MOE in its statement.
They also inform parents of traffic management policies and the enforcement actions that could be imposed on errant motorists.
LEAVE EARLIER OR BE LATE FOR SCHOOL
A parent who only wanted to be known as Ms Seah, who has been sending her three children to Red Swastika School in the mornings for seven years, said the traffic situation worsened over the years.
Despite living nearby, the family has had to leave the house about 10 minutes earlier than in previous years.
“Last year, as long as we reach the Bedok Reservoir stretch before 7.10am, we will be able to get into the school by 7.20am. But for this year onwards, I have to be at the Bedok Reservoir stretch by 7am, because the queue is already very long,” she told reporters.
“Ever since the school changed to (a) single session, the traffic has worsened.”
Even though she has a son who is in Primary 2, which means she is allowed to drive into the school, she chooses to drop her children off at the HDB car park where the traffic is slightly better.
“We have the car decal, but the queue is really horrible,” she added.
“(In the) worst case, sometimes we’re in the jam for about 20 to 25 minutes, and then my kids will arrive at school at 7.26am or 7.27am.”
Then there are those who are especially affectionate.
“Sometimes parents will drop off their kids, open the door, take their school bag for them, give them a big hug, stuff like that. Then it will just jam up everybody.”
Such delays stress her children out as well.
“They will always look at the time, ‘Mummy, so late already.’ Sometimes, before the entrance, they say they want to get off because they need to run to school, they don’t want to be late,” she added.
“I told them ‘Just be late, just let the teacher know you were late’ because I don’t think it’s worth taking the risk.”
Other parents choose to leave home even earlier. To get his three children to school on time, Mr Camilius Yang sets off at 6.25am.
His three children, who attend St Patrick’s School, CHIJ Katong Convent and St Joseph’s Institute Junior, are in school by 7am.
Adding that he could identify with the frustration of the 61-year-old driver, Mr Yang said many parents sometimes find themselves stuck outside when a queue has already formed.
“But obviously if I’m blocked by someone I will make a U-turn ... or I will get my kids to drop off at the bus stop and then they walk in. It’s about how you handle it right? I cannot drop you at the doorstep every time because I need to wait in the queue for 15 minutes or so,” he added.
PARENTS URGE OTHERS TO BE MORE PATIENT AND CAREFUL
Schools see similar traffic jams at dismissal time. When reporters visited Methodist Girls’ School on Wednesday afternoon, there were many cars parked illegally opposite the school, waiting for students to be released.
At about 12.40pm, snaking lines filled most of Blackmore Drive and spilt onto Bukit Timah Road.
“I think that if you are a regular driver, you kind of know which lane to take, and when you have to keep to your lane. Having said that, I think that in general you just need to employ a bit of graciousness to your fellow co-drivers. Everybody’s trying to get their kids to school,” said Mrs Goh, the mother-of-two.
“I think that if there’s a bit of give-and-take .... the morning ride is a bit more bearable.”
Once, her car broke down at the school gate at 7am - a line of cars waiting behind her. The school sent staff members and security officers to manage and control the traffic.
“You could really see a whole range of human responses, from the understanding ones to the very unpleasant ones. I felt so bad for them (the staff) because it was my fault that the car broke down but they were getting scolded for the traffic,” she said, urging parents to be more understanding.
Parents who drive should also be more patient, not least because there are children using the roads, said Ms Seah, the parent of three Red Swastika students.
“I know everybody’s stressed out and rushing in the morning, sometimes they might just miss the children. So actually (I hope) they pay more attention to the road,” she said.
She also hopes that the authorities will look into improving the traffic conditions along Bedok North Road, adding that parents have written to the authorities “countless times”.
Most schools generally have “very strict” procedures for parents to comply with, said USE’s Mr Tan.
“With every P1 cohort, there will be new parents coming to the school. And apparently, from all the facts that have surfaced so far, it seems like this vehicle was new to this morning drop-off phenomenon,” he added, referencing the incident on Tuesday morning.
But rules are there to be followed, he said, pointing to how the driver was not allowed to enter the school after cutting the queue. "Imagine if you allow one to not follow the queue ... other parents (may) do the same.”
Feedback from security officers in the union show that instances of rule-flouting are more common in the first two weeks of a new school term, said Mr Tan.
In his experience, “very rarely” are there “very egregious” altercations between parents and security officers at schools. Such cases are referred to the police immediately, he said.
In closing, however, he gave short shrift to drivers who break obvious traffic rules.
"As long as you’re a motorist, you’re expected to know (the rules),” he said.
“To tell you not to drive against the flow of traffic, I think there’s no necessity for anyone to have to remind anyone not to do so.”
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