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Big jump in number of illegally modified vehicles were also often caught speeding

Big jump in number of illegally modified vehicles were also often caught speeding

By: Mavis Toh

Published: August 12 2010,

The Straits Times

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THE number of car owners caught for illegally modifying their vehicles is shooting up.

Most modifications were to the cars’ exhaust systems, windows and lights – changes typically preferred by illegal racers who want to appear flashy.

In the first six months of this year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has already taken 1,381 motorists to task for this offence.

In the whole of last year, there were 2,510 people caught – a 44 per cent jump over the 1,746 nabbed the year before.

On a recent night operation by the Traffic Police, The Straits Times saw officers checking several modified vehicles, but no racers were caught.

Two cars – a blue Honda Civic and a red Subaru Impreza – cruising along Orchard Road were stopped near Plaza Singapura because officers suspected that both cars’ exhausts and engines had been illegally modified.

The cars were taken to the Traffic Police vehicle pound to await inspection by LTA officers.

Six motorcycles, parked near the Singapore Flyer, also got the once-over. Officers checked the bikers’ licences, inspected their two-wheelers and even made a few owners rev their engines. Twenty minutes later, two of the youngsters were told their bikes would have to be impounded.

One of the officers later explained: ‘From experience, you can hear that the engine sound is different and not right.’

Senior Staff Sergeant Mohd Haminuddin Mujtahid, who has 10 years of experience, said that the Traffic Police’s special operations team would usually do night patrols every weekend at hot spots like Orchard Gudang – a spot which stretches from Orchard Road to Stamford Road, which is popular with racers.

‘Many of them are from car clubs and we do patrols as a preventive measure,’ he said.

Spotted parked at an open-air carpark, near McDonald’s in Stadium Boulevard near Kallang, were six souped-up Mitsubishis of different models. Though the officers made their rounds without stopping, their presence still caught the car owners’ attention.

‘We just want to make our presence felt as a preventive measure to stop them before they even start racing,’ said Senior Staff Sgt Haminuddin.

He added that illegally modified vehicles were also often caught speeding.

A police spokesman said speeding, a common cause of accidents, was one of the main traffic offences that they focused on during night patrols.

In the first six months of this year, 26,976 speeding summonses were issued. The figure was 64,983 for the whole of last year, up from 61,661 in 2008.

Motoring enthusiasts, though, told The Straits Times that the police presence and the development of the Changi Motorsports Hub, which is expected to be ready by 2012, will curb illegal racing activities here.

Many racers now go across the Causeway to race.

Mr Peter Tan, vice-president for motorcycles at the Singapore Motor Sports Association, said the Republic’s strict laws have driven some illegal racers to Malaysia’s highways.

‘If caught for racing in Singapore, your licence can be (suspended) and your car confiscated. You also get booked for illegal modifications, so the risks are too high.’

Those caught for illegal racing can be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $2,000. Those who modify vehicles illegally can be fined $1,000 or jailed for three months.

Mr Tan felt that the Changi Motorsports Hub would help bring down the number of illegal street racers by up to 80 per cent. ‘When we have a track, professionals and amateurs alike can do some serious racing there.’

However, apart from the usual racing hot spots in Lim Chu Kang and Tuas South, Singaporeans have heard and seen races in heartland areas like Sengkang, Tampines, Sin Ming and Loyang.

In June, Tampines resident Poh Soon Leong wrote to The Sunday Times’ forum page, to complain that drivers of illegally modified sports cars often race along a stretch of road in Loyang Avenue, without regard for the safety of other road users.

A police spokesman later said they do regular enforcement in the area, including speed checks and special operations to check illegal racing and careless, inconsiderate and dangerous driving.

A 22-year-old student, who wanted to be known only as Wilson, is a regular racer who drives along Orchard Road almost every Friday and Saturday night, looking for a street race.

When enough cars show up, these speed demons dash from Orchard Road to Marina Square, make a right turn towards the Esplanade, make another right turn and race up Stamford Road, through the Fort Canning Tunnel to Orchard Boulevard, and back to where they started.

‘But now there are traffic policemen every week so we have to start our races even later, around 3am or 4am,’ he said, adding that, increasingly, they were also racing on expressways as Orchard was being closely watched.

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