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Dangerous and careless motorists could face harsher penalties: MHA

SINGAPORE — The authorities are looking at longer jail terms and heavier fines for motorists who drive dangerously and recklessly, after more drink-driving and fatal accidents were reported last year.

To strengthen deterrence against such unsafe behaviour, the Ministry of Home Affairs has proposed to enhance criminal penalties for traffic offences.

To strengthen deterrence against such unsafe behaviour, the Ministry of Home Affairs has proposed to enhance criminal penalties for traffic offences.

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SINGAPORE — The authorities are looking at longer jail terms and heavier fines for motorists who drive dangerously and recklessly, after more drink-driving and fatal accidents were reported last year.

To strengthen deterrence against such unsafe behaviour, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has proposed to enhance criminal penalties for traffic offences.

Announcing this at the launch of the 2019 “Use Your RoadSense” campaign on Thursday (Feb 21), Ms Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs, said that irresponsible driving “remains a source of grave concern”.

“Irresponsible driving has real, tragic and irreversible consequences. To complement existing efforts, we need stronger deterrence against unsafe driving,” she added.

Statistics from the Singapore Police Force showed that the number of fatal accidents went up by 2.6 per cent from 117 in 2017 to 120 last year.

The number of fatalities went up 2.5 per cent to 124.

While traffic violations and accidents related to speeding decreased, those related to running red lights and drink driving went up.

Drink driving is a growing concern and although there was a 24 per cent drop in such accidents in 2015 from the year before, there was a year-on-year increase after that, with drink-driving accidents going up 17.3 per cent from 2017 to 2018.

Under MHA’s proposal, irresponsible driving offences will be classified into two classes — dangerous driving and careless driving — in the Road Traffic Act, which correspond broadly to the Rash Act and Negligent Act in the Penal Code.

The two classes will be differentiated by the manner of driving, such as whether the motorist was driving at an excessively high speed or manoeuvring his vehicle in very close proximity to other vehicles. Other factors include: Whether the motorist was sleep-deprived or not wearing a visual aid when he needed to, and whether he had to exercise extra care in a situation but did not do so.

Each offence will be classified in four tiers catering to the different levels of harm caused: Death, grievous hurt, hurt, and endangering life.

For instance, those found guilty of dangerous driving could face a maximum jail term of eight years for the first offence, up from the five years now. Offenders will also face at least a year in jail if death or grievous hurt is caused and this will be doubled for repeat offenders.

PROPOSED ENHANCED CRIMINAL PENALTIES

Maximum penalties:

  • MHA is proposing to raise the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from five to eight years’ jail.

  • If the driver caused the accident while intoxicated, he may face two more years of jail time.

Mandatory minimum sentences:

  • Impose mandatory minimum jail sentences for the most serious offences.

  • For causing death by dangerous driving, a motorist could serve a minimum sentence of two years in jail. For doing so while intoxicated, he could serve another minimum sentence of a year. Both penalties will be higher for repeat offenders.

MHA will also do more to keep irresponsible drivers off the roads, and Ms Sun said that this will be done in three ways.

1. Disqualification period

  • Motorists convicted of dangerous and careless driving, particularly if they are drunk, will be kept off the roads for longer periods of time.

  • Currently, a motorist who drink drives and causes death could be disqualified from driving for at least a year.

2. Suspension of licence

  • MHA will expand the range of offences for which the offender’s licence is immediately suspended.

  • These will include driving under influence, dangerous driving and careless driving causing death or grievous hurt.

3. Forfeiture of vehicles

  • The forfeiture of vehicles will apply to more offences such as egregious irresponsible driving offences.

  • The courts can now do this for certain violations such as illegal racing.

MHA is inviting members of the public to submit feedback on the proposed changes from Feb 21 to March 13 via the Government's feedback portal Reach.

INCREASE IN FINES

From April, MHA will be raising composition sums for various road offences involving motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

For motorists, this is to “nip unsafe driving behaviour in the bud, before serious accidents happen and people are killed or hurt”, Ms Sun said.

While these offences such as making illegal U-turns or not wearing seat belts are not serious enough to bring on criminal charges, such behaviour poses risks to public safety, she added.

  • The fines for stopping in the yellow box and illegal U-turns will go up, from S$70 to S$100, for light vehicles such as cars.

  • For more serious offences “that have a higher likelihood of causing a serious accident”, such as running a red light and using mobile devices while driving, the fines will increase from S$200 to S$400 for light vehicles.

  • For any offence, the increase in composition sums for heavy vehicles will be higher than that for lighter vehicles, as they are “more likely to cause death or serious injury when they are involved in accidents”. For example, the fine for running a red light while driving a heavy vehicle will be raised from S$230 to S$500.

  • For general pedestrian offences such as failing to cross at a pedestrian crossing, the fine will go up from S$20 to S$50. Cyclists who do not wear helmets while riding, for instance, will be fined S$75 instead of the S$20 now.

2018: DRINK-DRIVING ACCIDENTS ON THE RISE

There was a decrease in drink-driving arrests last year, but an increase in drink-driving accidents.

  • The number of persons arrested for drink driving fell by 3.7 per cent to 2,002. This was despite more drink-driving enforcement operations conducted by the Traffic Police to catch such drivers.

  • Drink-driving accidents went up by 17.3 per cent. Of these, motorcyclists who were drink driving and were involved in accidents shot up by 51.3 per cent from 39 to 59.

Increase in accidents and fatalities involving motorcyclists:

  • Motorcyclist and pillion rider deaths jumped by 38.6 per cent to 61 — they accounted for almost half of all fatalities in 2018.

  • Fatal accidents involving motorcyclists increased by about 45 per cent to 65.

  • Accidents involving motorcyclists which resulted in injuries went up by 2.1 per cent to 4,358.

  • By the end of 2019, the Traffic Police will make simulation training compulsory for all learner motorists, enabling them to experience real-life traffic situations in a safe and controlled environment.

Accidents involving elderly pedestrians remain a concern:

  • The number of accidents involving elderly pedestrians dropped by 6.2 per cent to 259.

  • However, they are a vulnerable group because accidents involving them accounted for a quarter of all accidents where there were pedestrians. Forty per cent of these accidents involved jaywalking.

  • Of all pedestrian deaths in 2018, the elderly accounted for more than 60 per cent. Half of the fatal accidents involving elderly pedestrians was due to jaywalking.

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