Why are we talking about right turns?

With so many news articles on right turns out there, SGDaybook breaks it down for you.

What is a discretionary right turn?

A discretionary right turn is located at a traffic junction, and gives motorists the discretion to make a right turn when the lights are green. That “imaginary pocket” as driving instructors like to say. The driver would have to watch out for oncoming traffic and pedestrians to assess if it’s safe to make a right turn at his discretion.

Why is Singapore suddenly talking about discretionary right turns?

Unfortunately, there were two recent accidents involving discretionary right turns, and both involved a fatality each. These incidents prompted citizens to point out that discretionary right turns are dangerous, especially when 90% of accidents on the road are caused by human error such as bad judgment and being distracted.

The problem with discretionary right turn is that it places the onus on the driver to decide when to turn. He has to find a gap in the traffic, and look out for pedestrians. Depending on his state of mind, he may not be able to judge the speed of coming vehicles.

Is LTA doing anything? 

Yes, and they have already started work on this even before the two accidents. Out of 1600 junctions in Singapore, the LTA has removed the discretionary right turns in 200 junctions. LTA also plans to do so for the remaining junctions where possible in the next 5 years.

In place, they are going to introduce RAG arrows – which are Red, Amber and Green arrows. This means that motorists will not be allowed to turn right when the red arrow is lit. They would have to wait for the green arrow, and there would be no conflict with other traffic. It’s basically green light for turning right, and so drivers will have more certainty when they are turning.

Where have these RAG arrows been introduced?

These RAG arrows have been introduced at “black spots”, where many accidents take place. Since the introduction of these RAG arrows, the authorities have seen improvements in safety rates.

Were accidents totally eliminated?

Unfortunately, no. Though accident rates fell, accidents cannot be totally eliminated due to the risk of human error. For instance, motorists may want to beat the red arrow. So please drive safe!

Since discretionary right turns are dangerous, why do we have them in the first place?

From a traffic design point of view, discretionary right turns help optimise traffic flow, especially during non-peak hours. If the oncoming traffic flow is not that heavy, you won’t have to wait till it’s your turn to turn. Hence, discretionary right turns are great for off-peak hours.

If LTA were to get rid of discretionary right turns, won’t we have to wait longer at the traffic lights?

Yes, all of us will have to learn to be more patient on the roads – for a good cause though, as RAG arrows will minimise uncertainty when making a turn. Imagine being at the front of the queue at a discretionary right turn and everyone’s honking behind you. It’s pressurising! I’ve been there. Patience is a virtue. P.S.: Please resist the temptation to text your favourite group chat while waiting.