(Photo Credit: Straits Times)
Irresponsible drivers run the risk of harsher penalties and extended driving bans should proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Act be passed.
In a bid to deter irresponsible driving, the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill was tabled in Parliament last Monday (6 May). These changes were proposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs back in February. The debate in Parliament on this will begin in July this year.
In a statement, MHA said that irresponsible driving has remained a serious concern. This is despite efforts by the Traffic Police to improve road safety with public education efforts and the introduction of new cameras.
MHA went on to announce that the number of summonses issued for traffic offences increased, from 152,700 in 2015 to 181,000 in 2018.
There are three key proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Act.
1) Tougher Penalties for Errant Drivers
Two new classes of offences will be introduced. They are Reckless or Dangerous Driving and Driving Without Due Care or Reasonable Consideration.
The severity of the punishment for both offences will depend on the amount of harm caused. This is separated into four levels, Death, Grievous Hurt, Hurt and Endangers life (where no hurt is caused).
A minimum sentence of a year in jail will be mandatory for drivers found guilty of dangerous driving that causes death or grievous hurt. Some examples of dangerous driving include running red lights, failing to stop at stop lines, driving while using their mobile device and failing to slow down when approaching a zebra crossing.
First-time offenders for dangerous driving causing death will now be jailed for between two years and eight years, and be disqualified from driving for at least 10 years.
This is an increase from the current punishment of a maximum of five years in jail and disqualification from driving.
For repeat offenders, there will be a higher punishment for both maximum penalties and minimum mandatory sentence.
For instance, a second-time offender who caused grievous hurt from dangerous driving can be jailed for up to 10 years with a minimum sentence of at least two years. The current maximum punishment is two years in jail and a fine of S$10,000.
Aggravating factors such as driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs will lead to additional penalties that will run consecutively. Such penalties will add on at least another year to the maximum jail term.
Other penalties that will be increased include driving under influence, which will warrant a maximum of a year’s imprisonment and/or a fine of up to S$10,000 for first-time offenders, which is double the current penalty.
Another raised penalty is the offence of failing to wear a proper protective helmet for riders. That will warrant a jail term of up to three months and/or a fine of up to S$1,000. Currently, this offence only has a maximum fine of S$200.
2) Keeping Irresponsible Drivers off the Roads
A bigger range of offences will now have a minimum licence disqualification period imposed. Additional offences that will result in an immediate suspension of licence will include dangerous driving, driving under influence and illegal speed trials.
A forfeiture of vehicles will now be possible under more offences, such as dangerous driving causing death or grievous hurt, careless driving under influence causing death or grievous hurt, repeat offences for driving or permitting others to drive without licence and the evasion of a road block.
Existing minimum disqualification period for offences committed when driving under influence, penalties for driving without licence, or while under disqualification or suspension and period of suspension for serial offenders will be raised as well.
Other changes include the courts considering past compounded offence as an aggravating factor for sentencing, as one’s driving history is a useful indicator of his driving behaviour and the cancellation of a probationary licence will now include revoking probationary licences of all other vehicle classes the motorist is holding.
3) Road Incidents Involving Animals
Drivers will be required to stop their vehicle if the driver believes that the animal involved in the accident has an owner and/or the presence of the injured or dead animal on the road may pose a hazard to other road users.
The driver will also need to contact the owner of the animal and provide his particulars, as well as to alert other motorists of any animal-related road hazard.
Currently, such rules apply only to farm animals of commercial value, such as horses, cattle, pigs, goats and dogs.
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