Driving in Singapore


Driving in Singapore



Rule of the Road

Traffic in Singapore drives on the left side of the road, in common with most other Asian countries.



Statistics (year 2007 figures)


UK comparison

Annual fatalities



Registered motor vehicles



Motorisation rate, (motor vehicles / 1,000 population)



Fatality rate, (deaths / 10,000 motor vehicles)



Fatality risk, (road deaths / 100,000 population)



Fatality quotient, (fatality rate x fatality risk)



Fatalities / 1,000 km road



Road length, km



Paved roads, %



Road density, (road length km / land area km2)



Vehicle density, (motor vehicles / km)



Population density, (population / km2)





Statistics Summary

Singapore has the second highest population density in the world at 26 times higher than the density of the UK, and has the sixth highest vehicle density. Despite this, the government has the fatality rate and fatality risk well under control, and it is pleasing to see these have been falling in recent years. The fatality risk is now lower than in the UK.

However, motorcyclists make up only 17% of the motor vehicles, but are accountable for 48% of all fatalities.





Driving Environment

Singapore is a small crowded tropical island at the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsular, it measures only 20 km north to south, and 40 km east to west. Located less than 1.5 degrees north of the equator, the wet tropical climate has no clearly defined seasons, it tends to be hot and humid with significant rainfall all year round. Singapore’s drivers enjoy an excellent road network across the island, well-designed multi-lane highways with grade-separated junctions, coupled with multi-lane main roads throughout the city. Sight-lines tend to be good everywhere, as is the surface, road markings, and signage.



Driver Behaviour

Singapore’s drivers are not only the best in Asia, but some of the best in the world.

As a former British colony, and after 30 years of strict rule by former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, using a zero tolerance approach to absolutely everything, and his continuing legacy, all rules are strictly obeyed, including driving rules. Singapore is surgically clean and beautifully green, with a warm tropical climate and periodic heavy rain. Drivers tend to be calm, unrushed, and very courteous. It is very rare to hear a horn used.






The vehicle stock is generally new, including cars, buses, and trucks. Buses include double-deckers and articulated bendi-buses. There are fewer motorcycles compared with most other Asian countries, but a higher proportion than the UK. Generally all vehicles appear to be in a good and well maintained condition.

Although the steering wheel is on the right, the same as the UK, the direction indicator switch follows the Japanese preference of being on the right of the wheel with the wiper switch on the left.





Speed Limits

Speed is measured in km/h. Signage follows ISO standards, and signs are frequently located.

Speed limits in the city vary according to the quality of the road at that point, and are generally well defined according to risk and traffic conditions. Within the city some 4+ lane roads (each direction) have limits as low as 60 km/h or 50 km/h, whilst most residential and commercial areas have limits of only 40 km/h. Various highways have limits of 80 or 90 km/h.





Traffic Signals

Singapore uses the short 3 phase sequence: green > amber > red > green, i.e. with no amber after the red.

At only a few junctions there may be a worded sign permitting drivers to turn left at a red signal, but only after giving way to traffic having the green light.

Some signal heads have an additional signal displaying a green ‘B’. This shows in addition to the red light when buses only may drive on at the red light, although this green for buses may only apply to a single lane or a single direction.

Countdown signals are displayed at some busy junctions, counting down in seconds in green to the end of the green phase and in red to the end of the red phase.

Some junctions have the French style low-level repeater lights at car-drivers eye-level.

If turning at a green signal, and where pedestrians simultaneously have a green signal, it is imperative that drivers give way to pedestrians crossing. No driver here fails to give way to pedestrians.





Road signs

All regulatory, prohibitory, obligatory, hazard, directional, and advice signs follow the standard ISO (European) system. However, temporary signs for road works use the American diamond shape, albeit in a hi-vis bright pink colour.

All written signs are in English, and many street names have those of common English places. All signs are well placed and properly respected by all drivers.





Road markings

These follow closely UK markings, including double-yellow parking prohibition lines. However, there are some additional markings, e.g. yellow zigzag lines and double yellow zigzag lines. Bus lanes are common, and marked very clearly, some having a yellow lane line, some bus lanes additionally with a red lane line denoting the bus lane operates 24 / 365. Some multi-lane junctions have dot-markings to assist drivers in keeping to the correct lane as they simultaneously turn several abreast. Some multi-lane roads in the city have double white lines separating lanes, with an absolute prohibition on changing lanes in these areas.



Kerb markings

Painted kerb markings are typically restricted to black / white, often in conjunction with double yellow lines, but also at junctions and along some central reservation kerbs.




Roundabouts are well marked, although there are only a few remaining in the city, most former roundabouts are now superseded by traffic signals. Roundabouts typically remain only in residential roads outside the city centre. Conventional rules apply with emerging traffic giving way to circulating traffic.






Within the city all major junctions are light controlled, although many major highways also have a range of grade separated (cloverleaf type) junctions. At minor junctions some are marked as a give way, but many are marked as a stop. At junctions having restricted visibility, safety mirrors are commonly deployed.



Pedestrian Crossings

On all main roads pedestrians are prohibited from crossing the road except at a pedestrian crossing. There are several types of crossing, including a signal controlled pelican type, and the common uncontrolled zebra crossing. In all cases the pedestrian has absolute priority, and all drivers always stop for pedestrians without fail.





Railway Crossings

Although Singapore has several light rail systems, these are either underground or overhead, so there are no at-grade railway level crossings.




Singapore is served with an excellent highway system, some places up to 6 lanes in each direction. Junctions are all grade-separated, all slip-roads are of adequate length, and all signing and road marking is in an excellent condition. Some parts of the highway network are subject to Electronic Road Pricing, ERP, an automatic toll charging system.





City Driving

Main roads around the city are all multi-lane, all very well marked, and all signage is excellent. Parts of the centre of Singapore city are subject to Electronic Road Pricing, ERP, an automatic toll system for entering the city centre, the toll changing in value at different times of the day. Drivers here are generally very good at lane discipline, and where necessary changing lanes early to avoid conflict. Singapore city is served by an excellent metro underground rail system, and whilst driving around Singapore is pleasant, the metro should be considered for shorter trips.





Rural Roads

Singapore is a relatively small island, the city takes most of the land area. So except from several areas of parkland, unfortunately almost the entire country is built-up. However, there are a small number of pleasant wooded rural roads.



Night Driving

Night driving is relatively safe within the city, as all roads have good quality street lighting. There are no significant hazards here.






Parking is not normally permitted on a road unless in a marked bay. Most commercial parking requires a fee to be paid, to raise a barrier for entry and exit. Almost all private parking is controlled by a barrier entry & exit system to prevent unauthorised parking. Wheel clamping is used against parking violators in some locations.






Something to watch out for … The extreme good manners and courtesy of drivers may be unusual. If you are in a queue of traffic turning at a corner, especially at a green light, expect the driver ahead to stop and allow pedestrians to cross the road.


©Keith Lane 2009