Some vehicle enthusiasts confused by rules on road gatherings, following recent police crackdown on convoys

SINGAPORE – When the founder of automotive lifestyle brand Basement 1, Mr. Mohammad Izzraimy Mohammad Isham, issued an open invitation online for a meet and greet session with friends from the car enthusiast fraternity, he didn’t wasn’t expecting 300 cars to show up.

“There are no pop-ups, like food trucks and all that kind of stuff. It’s literally kind of a chill out session for the enthusiasts,” he said, explaining his take on the competition.

He also did not expect the encounter he organized to be among the rallies involving vehicles highlighted by traffic police in a warning issued last weekend.

A few people were identified as organizers of the convoy events and were is being investigated for “organizing a demonstration on the road or part of it without permission”, police said.

Following the event, a few motor vehicle enthusiasts whom TODAY spoke to said they were either unaware of or did not have a clear understanding of these regulations.

And while a legal expert points out the seemingly wide range of said rule, things were less straightforward on the road where group meetings and drive-by rallies are held quite frequently.

NO CONVOYS ARE AUTHORIZED: THE PRINT OF A BIKER

For two years before the Covid-19 restrictions came into effect, Mr. Muhammad Ilhami Kalil organized Majulah Vespura – a carnival which brought together around 500 Vespa enthusiasts from across the region each year.

He said he originally wanted to take his local friends for a scenic ride around Singapore. But when he approached auxiliary security companies here to provide a horseback escort, he was turned down.

“Unless it’s something exceptional like a funeral or a national event like Chingay, as far as I know, no convoys are allowed in Singapore,” Mr Ilhami said.

In the end, he decided that the event would take the format of a mini-carnival held on top of a private building, thus circumventing the need for a road permit.

INFORMAL GROUP RIDING EVENTS ARE THE STANDARD

On the other hand, members of the auto club group said it was common to meet and drive together from one point to another, all without breaking the law.

Although in particular, they avoid using the word “convoy” to describe these journeys.

For example, Mr Anton Lim, founder of the media company and automotive community of interest Horizon Drivers Club, said members usually meet on certain Sunday mornings, take a scenic drive together in small groups via an agreed route. before ending up somewhere else. for breakfast.

“But since the news came out, we have decided not to organize any more drive-togethers for now,” Mr Lim said, saying he was initially unaware of these rules governing convoys and road events here.

Mr Clarence Tan, a committee member of a few classic car interest groups, said: ‘Most car clubs registered with the ROS (Register of Societies) would have driving events listed as their activities.’

But he added that to his knowledge, an event permit is not required unless the number of attendees exceeds 50.

Mr David Thomson, chairman of the Malaysia Singapore Vintage Car Register, said that although their encounters involved small groups of cars driving together to a specific destination along a given route, it was “very rare” that they ” opt for the right authorizations and provisions relating to convoys”.

He acknowledged that the distinction between a real convoy and a group of vehicles traveling together can be confusing and may require “the police to define it” to avoid further confusion.

However, as a road user, he felt that it all comes down to driver behavior and whether they “each behave like an individual” and respect other road users, or act like “a single body” and cause disruption.

The disruption, he says, comes when groups of drivers try to stick together “at all costs” by running a red light or not letting other vehicles pass.

THE “BROADLY WRITTEN” RULE, COVERS ALL ACTIVITY ON THE ROAD

Legal adviser Lim Tianjun pointed out that Article 143 of the Road Traffic Law, which deals with events held on the road, is “drafted broadly and appears to include all types of gatherings or activities on the road, even if no motor vehicle is involved”. .

“There is also no mention of how many people or vehicles it would take before it would be considered a ‘gathering’ or an event within the meaning of Section 143,” said the lawyer for That Legal LLC.

“There don’t appear to be any cases reported specifically in this section that could provide guidance.

“That said, the main purpose appears to be to keep traffic flowing and safe, and people should consider applying for a permit if their event or gathering risks running counter to that purpose.”

MORE CLARITY TO AVOID FUTURE PROBLEMS, PLEASE

As for Mr. Izzraimy from Basement 1, he said traffic police called him on the day of the rally to ask him for directions to his event, but gave him the verbal green light as long as the schedule did not involve groups driving together. .

He added that to his knowledge, the police only intervened towards the end of the event to ensure a safe dispersal of the crowd, mainly because it was late at night and some people were starting to make noise. noise. But he was still unsure of any specific action taken as authorities have yet to contact him about a follow-up.

Police said in their statement last week that “holding an event on any road or part thereof without a police permit is illegal in Singapore and we will not hesitate to take firm action against those who choose to flout our laws”.

Under the Road Traffic Act, anyone found guilty of staging an event on any road could be fined S$1,000 or jailed for up to three months, or both. Repeat offenders face double the penalty – a fine of S$2,000 or up to six months in jail, or both.

While maintaining smooth and safe roads is a goal that all motorists can achieve, Mr. Lim and Mr. Izzraimy believed that further clarification of what a convoy or “event on a road or part of it” would go a long way to ensuring that road users do not inadvertently flout regulations.

“It can’t be like a group of 10 friends, if we want to go out and just drive for breakfast or dinner, we have to keep applying for permits every weekend,” Mr Izzraimy said.

Sara H. Byrd