EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated for clarity. Magistrate Hairul Hakkim’s name was misspelt in the penultimate paragraph and the error has been corrected.
SINGAPORE — A driver who shone a laser pointer into the rear view mirror of a car in front of him while on the expressway to force the other driver to change lanes was jailed for two weeks on Thursday (24 June).
Patrick Ong Choon Hua's actions were captured in the rear CCTV camera of the car in front of him, which showed flashes of green light appearing on the screen for around 22 seconds.
The 52-year-old, who told a court that he was an aquathlon coach, said he used the laser point for work in order to correct the postures of runners and swimmers.
"I point to side mirror and to rear mirror just because you see the car is blocking the way, and on that day, 2 September is my birthday, I (was) going back home...Why I keep shining is because he is blocking the way...I got no intention to harm anybody," he said.
Nevertheless, Magistrate Hairul Hakkim found his actions "highly perilous" as it would have distracted the other driver, placing him and other road users in danger.
"It is definitely a very dangerous thing to do. Even as I watched the video, my eye was partially blinded by the video. I had to turn away at some points because the whole video turned green. It was very bright," said the judge.
Ong pleaded guilty to one out of two counts of committing a rash act, endangering the life or personal safety of others while along the Kallang Paya Lebar Expressway. Another count of a similar nature involving another victim was taken into consideration for sentencing.
The affected driver Lim Chee Yong was driving along the KPE towards the Marina Coastal Expressway on the rightmost lane, at about 80kmh on 2 September last year.
Ong was driving directly behind Lim’s car. He flashed his high beam and turned on the hazard light to signal to Lim to change lanes, as he felt that Lim was driving too slowly.
There were other vehicles in the lane to the left of Lim at the time, so Lim was unable to change lanes.
Some 30 seconds later, after noticing Lim had not changed lanes, Ong took a laser pointer and pointed it at Lim’s rear-view mirror, while holding his steering wheel with the other hand.
Ong wanted the laser beam to reflect into Lim’s eyes, to force him to change lanes. He did so for about 13 seconds. Lim felt irritated and was unable to focus on the road briefly.
Ong drove to the middle lane and tailgated another car. He then decided to point the laser beam diagonally at Lim’s car again for about 9 seconds even though Lim’s car was no longer blocking him. He continued to point the laser pointer until Lim’s car was out of sight.
Lim lodged a police report over the incident that evening.
Footage of the incident from Lim’s rear-facing camera was played in court, and showed flashes of green light from the laser pointer when it hit the camera lens. This happened several times while Lim's and Ong’s cars were in a tunnel.
During investigations, Ong admitted to pointing the laser beam at other drivers on the expressway on other occasions to force them to make way for him. He knew that the laser beam could temporarily blind other drivers and potentially cause accidents on the road.
Deputy Public Prosecutor R Arvindren described the case as “unique” and sought a week’s jail for Ong.
Mitigating for himself and asking for a fine, Ong said that he did not intend to harm anyone, and that he was also honking at Lim.
“From the CCTV footage, you cannot hear the honking. Unfortunately, you only see the high beam and laser. I (was) really honking just to tell the person to give way,” he told Magistrate Hairul.
In reply, the judge said that honking when it was not necessary, just to ask others to give away, could be an aggravating factor.
Said the judge, “There is a huge risk involved here by behaving in this manner. I am also a driver but if somebody does not want to give way to me and they are not road hogging, we can’t do much as that is the nature of shared road usage.
“As mentioned earlier, as I watched the video myself, the light of the laser beam was so blindingly potent that I had to take my eyes off the screen a few times.”
Magistrate Hakkim agreed with the prosecution that a jail term was warranted.
For committing a rash act, Ong could have been jailed up to six months or fined up to $2,500, or both.
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