Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore

Last updated on July 8, 2019

road rage

What is “Road Rage”?

Road rage is an incidence of violence perpetrated by road users. It is a result of real or perceived provocation by other road users, stemming from differences that arise in the course of the shared use of roads.

Such differences may involve aggressive and ungracious acts of driving such as honking, tailgating, speeding, making angry gestures, preventing a vehicle from changing lanes, etc.

Road rage usually happens when the driver, or passengers, alight from their vehicles with the intention to harm each other in a moment of anger. However, it is not necessary for harm to be committed for it to be considered road rage. Other factors such as the disruption caused to the public (see below) will also be taken into consideration in a case of road rage.

Is Road Rage a Criminal Offence in Singapore?

There is no specific law in relation to road rage in Singapore. Most laws focus on the confrontational actions of parties following an act of “rage.” Therefore, although road rage itself is not a criminal offence, it is possible for individuals in a road rage case to be charged with other criminal offences.

The following table shows some of these offences and their respective penalties:

Offence Definition Penalty  Cases of road rage      
Voluntarily Causing Hurt A person who intentionally hurts another person, or does something while knowing that they are likely to cause hurt to that person, can be found guilty of voluntarily causing hurt. Offenders can be jailed up to 2 years, or fined up to $5,000, or both. In the case of PP v Lim Yee Hua, Lim was provoked by a pedestrian (the victim) who had hit the top of his car after Lim failed to give way at the zebra crossing. Lim faced 2 charges of voluntarily causing hurt after he punched his victim causing abrasions on his victim’s left eyebrow, as well as for punching his victim on the back of his neck. (More on the sentences he received for both charges below.)
Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt Voluntarily causing grievous hurt is similar to the offence of voluntarily causing hurt, only that the hurt caused here is more severe.

Grievous hurt can range from bone fracture to permanent disfiguration of the head or face and even death.

Those guilty of this offence can be jailed up to 10 years, and shall also be liable to a fine or caning. In the case of PP v Lee Seck Hing, the victim and Lee were driving when the former had cut into Lee’s lane. When both cars stopped at the junction, Lee hit the victim and fractured his arm. Lee was charged with voluntarily causing grievous hurt and was sentenced to 1 day’s imprisonment and a fine of $4,000.
Causing Hurt by Rash Act One may be guilty of causing hurt by rash act when he causes hurt to another person by doing so rashly as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others. Those guilty may face an imprisonment term of up to one year, or fined up to S$5,000, or both. In March 2017, a university professor was charged with driving his vehicle in a rash manner. He intentionally applied the emergency brake thrice, causing Mr Samual Lim Yong Soon’s car to collide with the rear of his vehicle. The professor pleaded guilty to committing a rash act and was jailed for a week, fined S$2,000 and banned from driving for 6 months.
Mischief Mischief occurs when one destroys or diminishes the value or utility of the property with the intention or knowledge that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person. Punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 1 year and/or with fine. In April 2019, a cyclist was fined $2,800 for causing mischief by striking off a lorry’s side-view mirror after being honked at by that lorry for riding in the middle of the lane.

Sentencing Considerations for Road Rage Offences

The primary sentencing consideration for offences involving road rage violence is both general deterrence (to society) and specific deterrence (to the particular individuals involved in the road rage incident). Deterrence is based on the need to protect road users from violence arising from traffic-related disagreements.

Although offenders of road rage violence can be liable to a custodial term, not all eventually do attract it.  Fines may be imposed instead of short custodial terms if they are “high enough to have a deterrent effect.”

The judge will use their discretion to decide whether a fine is “high enough.” For example, in the case of PP v Lim Yee Hua, Lim was fined $4,000 for his first charge of voluntarily causing hurt for punching his victim’s face.

This fine was considered “high enough” because the investigations of the charge had already taken a toll on Lim both financially and in terms of his lack of career advancement. A custodial sentence would also be too excessive as it would end Lim’s career in the SAF and lead to him losing over S$100,000 in accrued benefits.

Custodial sentences are more appropriate for incidents with high harm and/or legal culpability, where the perpetrator’s conduct was far beyond what was acceptable.

In determining the harm and culpability of the offender, the court will take into consideration the following factors:

  1. Nature and degree of harm caused by the offender
    • Whether there was personal injury directly sustained by the victim
    • Gravity of the collateral harm or damage caused to other persons or property respectively
    • Whether there was disruption or distress caused to the public
  2. The culpability of the offender, as assessed by the manner in which the assault was carried out:
    • The duration of the assault
    • Whether the attacks were one-sided
    • Whether the attacks were aimed at a vulnerable part of the body
    • Whether a weapon was used
    • Manner of attack
    • Extent of injury
    • Whether accused was the instigator.

Nevertheless, as harm and culpability varies depending on the specific facts of each case, the court will look at the facts of each case to decide the type of punishment that should be meted out, and how much.

For example, in the case of PP v Lim Yee Hua, the court decided to substitute the initial $5,000 fine for Lim’s second charge of voluntarily causing hurt with a 3-week imprisonment term on appeal.

The court found that Lim had demonstrated high culpability because Lim was the aggressor and was clearly unprovoked when he had punched the victim’s neck. Lim had prevented the victim from leaving and caused him further hurt despite knowing that the victim was already suffering from abrasions caused from the first incident of violence (i.e. Lim punching the victim’s face).

If the harm and culpability of the offender is low, like in the first incident of violence where the court was of the view that the victim was the aggressor who provoked Lim into attacking him, and the injury caused to the victim was light, then a fine might suffice.

The court, in arriving at a sentence that best fits the facts of the case, may also consider the non-offence specific aggravating and mitigating factors.

  1. Aggravating factors include:
    1. Offender lacking remorse
    2. Offender had similar previous convictions
  2. Mitigating factors include:
    1. Whether the offender was a first-time offender
    2. Whether the offender pleaded guilty at the earliest instance
    3. Whether the offender showed remorse in any other way

It is also worth noting that testimonials (if any) are accorded little weight in mitigation unless they can demonstrate the connection between the accused’s good past record and his willingness to reform.

The sentencing framework above applies to all road users beyond drivers. Meaning, passengers and pedestrians can be equally liable if they commit a criminal offence in a road rage case. This is motivated by public policy considerations of preventing outbreaks of violence on our roads so as to protect our motorists and road users.

What to Do If You are a Victim of Road Rage in Singapore

If you are caught in a situation of aggressive driving, you should try to contain the situation by disengaging with the provocateur.

Try to switch lanes to avoid contact with the provocateur. If the provocateur is in pursuit, drive to a nearby police station or pull into a busy parking lot and call the police. Having more witnesses may deter the provocateur from being impulsive. When doing so, stay in your car and keep your windows rolled up to prevent the provocateur from harming you.

When the police arrives, you should inform the police of the situation. If they deem the provocateur to have committed an arrestable offence, he may be arrested without a warrant. The offender may then be charged in court.

However, if a non-arrestable offence (e.g. voluntarily causing hurt) may have been committed, the provocateur may not be arrested immediately. If you want action to be taken against the provocateur, you may then need to make a police report of the incident, providing any medical reports of any injury you have sustained.

Together with a copy of your police report, you can then submit a Magistrate’s Complaint to the State Courts. The Magistrate will then decide whether to issue a warrant for the provocateur’s arrest and pursue the matter.

Alternatively, you may submit a traffic violation report to the Traffic Police online. To allow the Traffic Police to look into the matter, you will be required to produce corroborative evidence, such as photographs or videos of the violation, and/or an independent eyewitness who is willing to testify in court.

Arrest and Investigation
  1. Police Investigation Process in Singapore
  2. When Can the Police Arrest Someone?: Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
  3. Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
  4. Can a Civilian Arrest a Criminal in Singapore?
  5. Is Lying to the Police or Authorities an Offence in Singapore?
  6. Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
  7. What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
  8. Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  9. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
  10. Do You Have a "Right to Remain Silent" to the Police in Singapore?
  11. Extradition: What If You Flee after Committing Crime in Singapore?
  12. Warrant of Arrest: What to Do If It is Issued Against You in Singapore
  13. Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
  14. Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
  1. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  2. Prosecutorial Discretion in Singapore
  3. What is Private Prosecution?
  4. Compounding or Composition of Offences in Singapore
  5. Criminal Records in Singapore
  6. Plea Bargaining in Singapore: All You Need to Know
Criminal Proceedings
  1. Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
  2. Exercising Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
  3. Claiming Trial as an Accused
  4. Mitigation Plea
  5. Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
  6. Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
  7. Presidential Clemency in Singapore
  8. Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
  9. Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
  10. Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
  11. 7 Detention Orders in Singapore and When Will They be Ordered?
  12. Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
  13. Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
  14. Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
  15. Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
  16. Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
  17. Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
  18. Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
  19. How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
Sexual Offences
  1. Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
  2. Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
  3. What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
  4. What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
  5. Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
  6. Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
  7. Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
  8. STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
  9. Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
Vice-Related Offences
  1. Is it illegal to visit prostitutes in Singapore?
  2. Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
  3. Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
  4. When Can You Legally Gamble (In Public or Online) in Singapore?
  5. Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
  6. DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
  7. Legal Drinking Age in Singapore and Other Drinking-Related Laws
  8. Singapore's Legal Smoking Age and Common Smoking Offences
  9. The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
  1. Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
White-Collar Crimes
  1. Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: Elements and Penalties
  2. Dishonest assistance and knowing receipt - The case of David Rasif
  3. Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
  4. All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
  5. 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
Other Criminal Offences
  1. Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore: Differences & Penalties
  2. Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
  3. Is it illegal to feed stray animals in Singapore?
  4. Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore
  5. Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
  6. What are Sham Marriages and Are They Illegal in Singapore?
  7. Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore: Police Permits and the Public Order Act
  8. Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
  9. Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
  10. Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
  11. Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
  12. Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
  13. Complete Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
  14. Is Joining a Gang Illegal in Singapore?: Being Recruited and Penalties
  15. What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
  16. Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
  17. Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
  18. Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
  19. Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
  20. Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
  21. Littering and Killer Litter Offences: Here are the Penalties in Singapore
  22. Organised Crimes: Penalties/Orders Syndicates Face in Singapore
  23. Animal Cruelty in Singapore: Offences, Penalties & How to Report
  24. Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
  25. Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
  26. Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
  27. Kidnapping Scam: Penalties & Responding to a ‘Kidnap Call/Text'
  28. Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
Certificate of Clearance
  1. How Do You Apply for a Certificate of Clearance in Singapore?