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Aspiring medical student gets 5 days’ jail for knocking down elderly pedestrian while ‘sleepy driving’

SINGAPORE — A 25-year-old aspiring medical student, who knocked down a 78-year-old pedestrian while driving when he was “sleepy”, was sentenced to five days’ jail and banned from driving for 18 months on Monday (Sept 30).

SINGAPORE — A 25-year-old aspiring medical student, who knocked down a 78-year-old pedestrian while driving when he was “sleepy”, was sentenced to five days’ jail and banned from driving for 18 months on Monday (Sept 30).

Tan Wei Ren, who is applying to medical schools for his postgraduate studies, was exhausted because he had been studying till late into the night after completing a research course the night before the accident took place, his lawyer told the court.

It was not stated exactly how late Tan had been studying. His lawyer also declined to reveal Tan's occupation when asked by reporters, although he was described as a "hardworking academic" in court. 

On July 8 last year, at about 9am, Tan was driving along Lavender Street towards Republic Avenue when he collided into Mr Chua Boon Huat who was crossing the road more than 50m from a pedestrian crossing. 

Tan, however, had a clear view straight ahead and the victim was in plain sight from some distance away, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Charis Low noted, adding that he should have had ample time to see Mr Chua. He failed to do so because he did not keep a proper lookout.

DPP Low also pointed out that Tan was driving at a speed of 63km/h at the point of impact, having increased his speed from 59km/h to 63km/h in the immediate five seconds before the impact. The speed limit for the stretch of road was 60km/h.

Mr Chua suffered head and collarbone injuries as a result of the crash and had to be warded in Tan Tock Seng Hospital for 19 days.

In view of the “grievous harm” caused, DPP Low had asked the court to impose a one-week jail sentence, arguing that Tan’s “sleepy driving” increased his culpability, since he posed an increased danger to other road users. If he had been alert, he would have noticed the victim crossing the road, she reiterated. 

While Tan’s lawyer, Mr Pang Khin Wee, agreed that a custodial sentence is warranted, he sought to get a “discount” on the one-week sentence the prosecution wanted, pointing out that his client had refrained from driving since the accident and is “unlikely to reoffend”.

“He is full of potential for rehabilitation and will do a lot of good to society as a doctor in the future,” he told District Judge Carol Ling Feng Yeng.

Mr Pang also said that Tan — who had been driving for four to five years before the accident — took responsibility for his actions and emerged from his vehicle “in a split second” to get help for the victim. 

A passing ambulance at the site of the accident attended to Mr Chua.

Tan had written an apology letter to Mr Chua, Mr Pang said, noting that it took care of the victim’s “mental well-being” as it accorded the victim “closure” to what had transpired. The lawyer added that the man's medical expenses were covered by Tan’s insurance firm. 

These proved Tan’s “genuine remorse”, Mr Pang said. The lawyer questioned DPP Low’s “sleepy driving” characterisation of Tan, adding that he knows of people who can function with two to three hours of sleep.

“(My client) is a hardworking academic,” he stressed. 

In response, DPP Low said that she was referring to Mr Pang’s mitigation plea, which stated that the accident was caused by a “momentary lapse”, partially caused by a lack of sleep. 

Tan pleaded guilty to one charge of a negligent act endangering human life and causing grievous hurt to Mr Chua. He could have been sentenced to up to two years in jail, or fined up to S$5,000, or both.

Related topics

traffic accident court crime medical student pedestrian academic sleep

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