AN accountant by training, Assistant Commissioner Sam Tee continues to crunch numbers as the highestranking Traffi c Police (TP) offi cer in Singapore. But those figures concern life and death, because they’re related to road safety.
Road users should be doing what is right, instead of just doing what is legally required.
AN accountant by training, Assistant Commissioner Sam Tee continues to crunch numbers as the highestranking Traffi c Police (TP) offi cer in Singapore. But those figures concern life and death, because they’re related to road safety. With over 700 offi cers in various units and more than 200 vehicles (from scooters to expressway patrol Volvo S80 T5s) under his command, 45-year-old Sam has achieved a lot since he joined the police force in 1994 after his graduation. Prior to his current posting, he held command positions in the Airport Police and Police Coast Guard. Sam has two kids and still enjoys his mother’s home cooking. His hobbies are golf, running and reading. We talked to the aff able senior offi cer at Traffi c Police headquarters in Ubi Avenue 3.
How does a typical TP work week go for you?
I meet my offi cers often to explain policies and seek their views. Such dialogues are important for our massimpact organisation. I also spend a considerable amount of time joining my offi cers on the ground. That’s the exciting part – operational activities against drink driving and illegal racing.
Police Coast Guard, then Airport Police and now Traffi c Police – what are their diff erences to you as a commander?
The biggest diff erence lies in the nature of the domain. For example, the aviation environment is a security-centric one that’s highly sensitive, as the terrorism threat is real. The Airport Police must ensure that all security procedures are well established and adhered to. Any security incident must be quickly dealt with, to remove the threat and minimise disruption to air travel. We only have one airport. Ensuring road safety is a very diff erent ball game and much more challenging. The spectrum of road users is wide – motorists, motorcyclists, heavy-vehicle drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Singapore also has a wide and dense road network. As road users are not as homogenous a group as air travellers, TP has to adopt diff erent approaches to reach out to them. That being said, the mission of my police appointments is the same: to safeguard lives.
What do you hope to achieve as TP Commander?
To save precious lives from being killed on the roads. Every two or three days, I read a traffi c death report with a heavy heart. Last year, 155 innocent lives were lost on our roads. Actually, these fatal accidents can be prevented, so we need to work harder. My predecessors have done a good job to reduce road fatalities since 2010, and I’m determined to carry on with their good work to save more lives. I also want to maintain a strong sense of law and order on the road. The majority of road users are safety-conscious, but for the minority who misbehave, TP will deal with them swiftly and firmly.
Commander Sam Tee’s first car was a stylish Nissan saloon.
How can TP strike a balance between enforcement and education?
TP is not an enforcement-focused unit, and does not intend to be one. Our key task is to engage and educate, with the aim of shaping people’s road behaviour. We believe all road users know that the roads are dangerous and understand the traffi c rules – like don’t beat red lights, don’t speed and don’t drink drive. It’s not rocket science. They just need to be reminded. Hence, our current eff orts are geared towards inculcating good road sense via dialogue and discussion, and placing visible signs to remind road users of danger spots. Our recent initiatives include painting the speed-camera-zone sensor poles in bright colours and putting reflective tapes on them, so they’re highly visible even at night. We’ll paint the 240 red-light camera poles in bright colours, too. Ultimately, we want to change the mindset of all road users – doing what is right to stay safe, instead of just doing what is legally required.
Why hasn’t TP adopted a zerotolerance policy on drink driving?
The drink driving situation in Singapore has improved significantly as a result of sustained education campaigns and enforcement eff orts. Over the years, TP has noticed a change in social norms on drink driving. Motorists are leaving their vehicles at home when going out for drinks, and we see people advising tipsy friends not to drive and off ering them a ride home. My men are also seeing more car jockeys during roadblocks. These are positive signs. With greater engagement, education and enforcement, I’m confident more motorists will be doing the right thing – that is, not to drink and drive.
Any public service message for Torque readers?
I would like to take this opportunity to remind motorcyclists to practise safe riding habits. TP would also like to urge them to be extra careful during rainy days, and encourage motorists to look out for bikers and give way to them. Bikers are more vulnerable on the road because they’re not protected by a vehicle shell.