On 28 January 2013, a horrific collision of a cement truck and two bicycles resulted in the deaths of two young brothers, Nigel Yap, and Donoval Yap. The accident occurred at the junction of Tampines Avenue 9 and Tampines Street 45. This accident highlighted several issues regarding road safety and the behaviour of netizens in the aftermath of the accident.

The accident
The elder brother, Nigel, was fetching his younger brother, Donovan home from CCA practice on his bicycle on that fateful day. Donovan was riding pillion on the bicycle when the brothers were struck by a cement truck at evening time. Both died soon after the accident. The truck driver was arrested by the police to assist with investigations.[1]

The backlash against netizens
Soon after the accidents, gruesome photos of the accident began to circulate on the cyberspace and the social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. At least a photo was shot metres away from the victims, and showed “one of the victims lying face down on the road”. Others soon began to condemn such actions and urge stronger regulations to prevent similar acts.

On his Facebook page, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asked Singaporeans to “show sensitivity and respect for the family, especially online”. Education Minister Heng Swee Keat also urged the public to refrain from circulating photos of the accident in respect of the victims’ family.

In response to such irresponsible actions, some also asked for stricter privacy laws. However, Mr Zaqy Mohamad, an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, called for stronger self-regulation instead, in order to “build a culture of sensitivity and empathy online”.[2]

Road safety
Many people also called for greater emphasis on road safety issues. Residents in the area noted that another pedestrian was killed in a separate road accident in December 2011 at the same road junction in Tampines. Hence, they hoped that actions can be taken to improve road safety in the area.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng noted that there were increased heavy vehicle traffic in the area as there were several ongoing construction projects in the area. He made an appeal to the relevant authorities to explore the possibility of re-routing these vehicles away from schools or areas with many pedestrians.[3]

The Ministry of Education will be stepping up its road safety education in response to the accident. Minister Heng said that schools will also be working with the police and Land Transport Authority to enhance safety. A ministry spokesman also talked about the various road safety education efforts being undertaken by schools, such as education talks, safety walks outside schools to help students familiarise themselves with the safe routes, and visits to the Road Safety Community Park, among other measures.[4]

The road accident also highlighted the kind-hearts of Singaporeans. From calling for improved road safety, comforting the victims’ families, and condemning the actions of irresponsible netizens, Singaporeans had displayed strong community spirit and empathy during this unfortunate incident. Hundreds, including strangers, turned up for the boys’ funeral.[5] Noting these acts of kindness, PM Lee said during his parliamentary address on the Population Paper that Singaporeans “all grieved together” with the victims’ family.[6]

Thinking questions
  1. Should the Internet be regulated more strictly to prevent irresponsible netizens from posting gruesome images of accidents?
  2. How can the road safety education efforts be improved to prevent such unfortunate incidents from occurring again?

[1] Tampines accident: Elder brother fetched younger one from CCA, says MP
[2] Online photos spark calls for stricter rules
[3] Tampines junction to be reviewed after fatal accident
[4] MOE to step up road safety education in light of Tampines accident
[5] Hundreds turn up for funeral of boys killed in Tampines accident
[6] PM Lee: Govt will not let Singaporeans be overwhelmed by foreigners