In recent times, the issue of illegal carpooling and hitchhiking in Singapore has gained significant attention, sparking concerns about the safety of commuters and the need for stricter regulations.
The tragic incident on New Year’s Eve, where a 21-year-old lost his life in a carpooling accident involving an 18-year-old driver without a valid licence, serves as a stark reminder of the potential dangers associated with such practices.
The Fatal New Year’s Eve Accident
The Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) accident on December 31, 2023, resulting in the death of a young man, highlights the inherent risks of illegal carpooling.
The 18-year-old driver, allegedly part of the carpool group SgHitch, not only faces charges of careless driving but is also under investigation for driving without a valid licence.
This tragic incident underscores the need for more stringent measures to prevent unqualified individuals from participating in carpooling activities.
First-ever case of motorcycle used as private-hire vehicle in Singapore
Another alarming case involves the use of motorcycles for illegal chauffeuring services.
The first-ever conviction of a motorcyclist for accepting payment to ferry passengers raises questions about the effectiveness of current regulations.
The 33-year-old motorcyclist, Muhammad Hasbullah, operated without the necessary insurance coverage, emphasising the importance of implementing and enforcing policies to curb such practices.
Enforcement operations conducted by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) revealed additional cases of drivers operating without the required licence and insurance coverage.
Muhammad Nasrulhaw Shamsulnizam, caught ferrying passengers without a valid vocational licence and insurance policy, faced impoundment of his vehicle, emphasising the need for more comprehensive checks during enforcement operations.
Illegal Carpooling Platforms and LTA’s Response
The emergence of informal non-business mediums, such as Telegram’s SGHitch, for carpooling has become a cause for concern. In response, LTA has declared such platforms illegal, leading to fines and potential imprisonment for those providing or facilitating carpooling services through these channels.
Illegal carpooling platforms still thriving
Despite the strict stance, these platforms continue to operate, demonstrating the challenges authorities face in controlling illegal carpooling activities.
While many understand the dangers of such anonymous carpooling, within some encountering strange drivers through such platforms, many still find themselves using these services for the cheaper price options as compared to official ride hailing platforms available.
Historical Perspective on Carpooling
Carpooling, as a concept, has its roots in Singapore’s efforts to address traffic congestion in the 1970s.
The Area Licensing Scheme (ALS) initially exempted carpool vehicles from toll charges if they had four or more occupants. However, the exemption was phased out in 1989, leading to a shift in the dynamics of carpooling.