Accidents involving car-sharing vehicles: Users claim poor upkeep but experts say drivers’ inexperience a more likely factor

Car-sharing vehicle-related accidents: SINGAPORE — Mr. Ahmad Syatibi books a car-sharing vehicle once or twice a month to run errands. Despite the fact that he finds such vehicles convenient, the university undergraduate has become increasingly concerned about the cleanliness and maintenance of such vehicles. However, experts say that drivers’ lack of experience is a more likely factor.

Driving one of the less expensive models was the worst experience I had. I could tell when I drove it because the engine oil hadn’t been changed and the brakes also squeaked. The maintenance light was on, and the car’s interior and exterior are also covered in dust. The 23-year-old replied, “This is basic maintenance, you know, the kind you do every year.”

Mr. Muhamad, who only wanted to be known as a car-sharing user, shared similar experiences.

The engineer, who is 27 years old, stated, “There are a lot of times I choose not to drive after having booked the car because the quality of the car is bad and I’m not going to risk it,” noting that he uses car-sharing vehicles nearly every week.

He went on to say that he once abandoned a car on the side of the road due to a “burning smell” and that the brakes also broke once.

The recent fatal accidents involving cars rented from car-sharing companies have raised questions about the safety of these vehicles and whether they pose a road safety risk.

A GetGo car struck an SBS Transit bus earlier this month (January), killing the driver and transporting seven bus passengers to the hospital. On social media, a video of the accident has gone viral.

Another video that went viral last year showed a BlueSG car hitting a road divider, but no one was hurt.

Are drivers who share cars to blame?
TODAY spoke with academics and experts on road safety who said that more rigorous research is needed to understand how car sharing affects road safety in Singapore. However, at least one expert said that international research shows that car sharing does increase traffic accidents.

An assistant professor at the college of design and engineering at the National University of Singapore, Dr. Prateek Bansal, mentioned a 2019 South Korean study that looked into the impact of car-sharing services on the number of accidents.

The study found that drivers’ reckless attitudes made car-sharing worse for road safety, especially among experienced drivers who had little respect for the vehicles because they did not own them.

Inexperienced drivers and the absence of company checks on drivers’ competence are additional causes.

He went on to say that there also appears to be a lack of checks to determine who is actually driving these car-sharing vehicles.

“For instance, even if they don’t have a license, someone can drive using another person’s account. Dr. Bansal stated, “There is no technology for car-sharing companies to check who is driving at the wheel. I haven’t heard of this happening.”

Mr. Gopinath Menon, a consultant in transportation engineering, said that one of the main factors that affects the rate of accidents is typically a driver’s level of skill.

There are three main causes of accidents: the vehicle, the road, or the driver. Mr. Menon stated, “Accidents occur most likely due to the driver, regardless of whether they obey traffic laws, since Singapore roads are well-maintained and automobiles are checked by LTA frequently.”

Car-sharing vehicles are regulated in the same way that self-driving private hire vehicles are by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for the point-to-point industry.

If the vehicle is more than three years old, it must be inspected every two years, and if it is more than ten years old, it must be inspected annually.

Walter Theseira, an associate professor at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, stated that the higher premiums for for-hire cars suggest that insurers recognize the higher risks associated with rented vehicles, despite the fact that there may not be evidence that car-sharing reduces accident rates in Singapore.

This is fundamentally due to the fact that a wider range of drivers with varying driving records and experience operate a for-hire vehicle. This necessitates higher premiums on the part of insurers, according to Assoc Prof. Theseira, who teaches economics and urban transportation.

However, Assoc. Prof. Theseira noted that it is also possible that the public’s perception of car-sharing brands has resulted in the perception that these vehicles are more likely to be involved in accidents.

“Because they are branded by the car-sharing operator, car-sharing vehicles are more prominent than privately owned vehicles and are used more frequently. As a result, their accidents are more likely to be reported on social media and in the media, giving the impression that they are more at risk. However, only the insurers will be able to determine if they are actually more risky,” he stated.

TODAY has requested a breakdown of the car-sharing vehicles that have been involved in road accidents from the Singapore Police Force and the LTA.

Are poor-maintained automobiles also a concern?
Renters like Mr. Muhamad and Mr. Ahmad point to the poor condition of car-sharing vehicles, despite the fact that there is some evidence that drivers are to blame for such accidents.

I believe that car quality has a significant impact on accident rates. Mr. Muhamad stated, “I have been a little more wary since I have had bad experiences with car-sharing vehicles in the past and rarely use them any more.”

According to Dr. Bansal, a number of users he has interacted with have voiced concerns about the cars’ lack of upkeep and cleanliness, which may influence accident rates.

However, he added, it is “difficult” to attribute the lack of upkeep to car-sharing companies because they follow standard upkeep procedures.

Dr. Bansal stated, “Car-sharing companies have general maintenance practices in place, but anomalies can still happen, even in regular usage.”

Car-sharing companies claim that their vehicles are in good condition, but they told TODAY that in addition to the required vehicle inspections by LTA, they also clean and service their vehicles on a regular basis.

The head of the electric car-sharing platform BlueSG, Ms. Jenny Lim, stated that the fleet is cleaned weekly and that preventive maintenance checks are performed at least once every three months.

In the meantime, Mr. Toh, the CEO of GetGo, stated that the company’s automobiles are “inspected as well as cleaned regularly” and that their fleet is subject to frequent mandatory inspections.

Additionally, Drivelah stated that because it rents out personally owned vehicles, hygiene and vehicle upkeep are not a concern on its platform.

The majority of our hosts list their own automobiles on our platform to generate additional revenue. As a result, Drivelah’s head of marketing, Ms. Bavani Srinu, stated, “The cars are kept clean, well-maintained, and taken care of because it is in the owners’ best interest because they also use the cars personally.”

The three companies also said that, although they do maintenance work on a regular basis, their customers also keep the cars clean and tell them how good they are.

After each session, BlueSG users, for example, can rate how clean and damaged their rented vehicle is on the platform’s app, while GetGo users can give detailed feedback on cleanliness and damage.

BlueSG’s Ms. Lim added: Our members only pay for what they use. If, for any reason, they find an electric vehicle that they don’t like, they can always return it to the service and give us feedback. This means that our members only pay for what they use. In such instances, they do not pay any fees if their rental does not begin.

To discourage careless drivers, some businesses also have specific rules and penalties.

For instance, the platform operated by GetGo permanently excludes repeat offenders.

In their terms and conditions, car-sharing companies also specify the financial penalties that will be incurred in the event that the cars are damaged or involved in an accident.

Tribecar also stated that it works with the Traffic Police and participates in programs like road safety week to teach people how to reduce traffic accidents.

GetGo added that they strongly recommend that all motorists adhere to the following safe driving practices: make sure they get enough sleep so they can stay alert while driving, give themselves enough time between trips so they don’t have to rush and drive aggressively, and always drive in accordance with traffic laws.

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