SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has proposed stiffer measures for illegal car racing, road rage and pretending to be the offending driver in road traffic violations.
These proposals, aimed at making the roads safer, were covered in the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill introduced in Parliament on Monday (Apr 5).
The Road Traffic Act was most recently amended in 2019 to impose harsher penalties for motorists who drive dangerously or while drunk.
This is in line with continued efforts by the Traffic Police (TP) and Land Transport Authority to improve road safety by strengthening enforcement measures, penalties, public education and road infrastructure.
The latest amendments come amid a decreasing trend of road traffic deaths and fatalities rate over the past decade.
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The MHA is targeting dangerous illegal speed trials where racers far exceed the speed limit and exhibit other dangerous driving behaviour.
In 2020, TP detected at least 26 people involved in illegal racing, an increase from the 17 people charged for this offence from 2015 to 2019.
MHA will increase the fine and jail term for the offence of illegal speed trials to align with penalties for dangerous driving endangering life.
First-time offenders could be jailed for up to a year and fined up to S$5,000, an increase from the maximum six months in jail and a fine of S$2,000.
Repeat offenders could be jailed for up to two years and fined up to S$10,000, an increase from the maximum one year in jail and a fine of S$3,000.
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MHA will also amend the vehicle forfeiture regime for illegal speed trials to make it non-mandatory. This ensures parity with the forfeiture regime for other egregious offences, such as dangerous driving causing death.
In one prominent case in 2017, a court ruled that a Lamborghini driven by an Indonesian man in an illegal race with a Nissan GT-R in 2015 would be forfeited to the state, even though the Lamborghini was registered under the man’s parents’ company.
This is because it is currently mandatory by law for a car used in the commission of the offence and seized by the police to be forfeited to the state.
With the amendments, there will be no forfeiture if the offender is not the owner of the vehicle, and the offender had used the vehicle without the owner’s consent.
MHA will strengthen deterrence against road rage by making it easier for motorists who commit this offence to be disqualified from driving.
Under the current law, motorists who commit road rage can be disqualified from driving if they meet certain conditions, including being convicted of a specified Penal Code offence within the context of road rage.
These offences include voluntarily causing hurt, causing death by negligent act and wrongful restraint.
In November last year, a Maserati driver was jailed seven days for hurling religious insults at an off-duty traffic police officer in a case of road rage.
But the man’s offences - causing harassment and uttering words with deliberate intent to wound someone’s religious or racial feelings - meant he was not disqualified from driving. These offences are not part of that specific list of Penal Code offences.
MHA has proposed to amend the provisions for disqualification to cover all offences under any written law committed in the context of road rage.
PRETENDING TO BE OFFENDING DRIVER
MHA will penalise those who obstruct, prevent or defeat the course of justice for road traffic incidents, including those who pretend to be the offending driver.
“This will cover individuals who mislead TP by facing the penalties on behalf of someone else, and individuals who mislead TP by asking someone else to face penalties on their behalf,” MHA said in a statement on Monday. “Such individuals may also face disqualification from driving.”
Offending drivers could scheme with a third party so that demerit points are not incurred by the driver.
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For instance, this could be the case in the offence of running a red light, which is usually detected by a camera and tagged to the vehicle licence plate.
The vehicle owner will receive a letter notifying him or her of the offence, but can choose to declare that someone else was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence.
This would ensure that the actual offender does not incur 12 demerit points for running the red light. Motorists who accumulate 24 demerit points within 24 months will be suspended from driving.
For offending drivers and third parties, regardless of whether the latter pretends to be the offending driver, MHA will penalise those who “cause or permit to provide false or misleading information, or intentionally alter, suppress or destroy information that leads to the identification of an offending driver”.
For third parties who pretend to be the offending driver, MHA will create an offence of falsely representing himself to be the offending driver, knowing that he was not the offending driver.
The penalties will be higher than the existing offence of wilfully or recklessly furnishing false or misleading information. Offenders can be jailed for up to a year and/or fined up to S$10,000.
IMPROVING OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY
MHA will improve the TP’s operational efficiency by enhancing reporting requirements for companies that own vehicles.
“This will ensure companies provide information in a timely manner to TP to identify drivers when a company’s vehicle is used to commit traffic offences, so that the offending drivers can be taken to task promptly,” MHA said.
Companies will be required to designate a “responsible officer” who may be liable if the company fails to provide information to identify drivers who use the company vehicle to commit a traffic offence.
MHA will also require companies to keep records of such information for one year, an increase from the six months previously.
OTHER MINOR AMENDMENTS
MHA has also proposed other minor amendments relating to road safety.
It will remove the need to prescribe the circumstances and suspension lengths for driving licence suspensions in subsidiary legislation to allow for greater operational flexibility.
Next, the ministry will clarify that enhanced criminal penalties for repeat offenders of serious traffic offences, like dangerous driving, will only apply to those who have been convicted on at least two previous occasions.
For example under the 2019 amendments, a second-time offender who caused grievous hurt from dangerous driving could be jailed for up to 10 years. The maximum penalty previously was two years' jail and a S$10,000 fine.
Finally, MHA will clarify that the courts can only take into account any traffic offence compounded after the 2019 amendments as aggravating factors when sentencing for traffic offences.
Currently, the Road Traffic Act states that the courts can take into account any compounded traffic offence, regardless of when it was compounded.