SINGAPORE: Motorists found guilty of serious traffic offences will face harsher penalties as part of proposed changes to the Road Traffic Act.
Longer jail terms and heavier fines will be imposed "for serious offences where the motorist exhibits egregious driving behaviour and causes serious harm to the victim", said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday (Feb 21).
Examples of egregious driving include drink-driving and speeding past pedestrian crossings when the motorist does not have the right of way.
MHA proposed creating two classes of irresponsible driving offences - Dangerous Driving and Careless Driving - which will be further broken down into four tiers relating to different levels of harm caused.
The two classes of offences correspond broadly to rash act and negligent act in the Penal Code, said MHA, although each offence will come with a longer maximum jail term and a higher maximum fine than what is laid out in the Penal Code.
Under the proposed changes, the maximum jail term for dangerous driving could be increased from five to eight years.
If the convicted motorist was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she could have add-on penalties that include up to two more years of jail time. An additional penalty of at least one more year in jail will be imposed if death or grievous hurt was caused.
For careless driving, the maximum jail term could be raised from two years to three years, if death was caused.
Penalties may be doubled for repeat offenders.
"Despite our enforcement and education, there are still motorists who drive or ride in a dangerous manner – against the flow of traffic, swerving across lanes suddenly without warning and beating red lights," said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling at the launch of a road safety campaign on Thursday.
She added that mandatory minimum sentences will also be imposed.
SUSPENSION FROM DRIVING
MHA's announcement on the review of traffic laws comes as the police released their annual statistics on traffic accidents in Singapore.
The statistics show that while there were fewer traffic accidents last year, the number of drink-driving accidents and motorists who ran red lights went up.
Apart from raising jail terms and fines, MHA also intends to expand the type of offences for which a motorist's licence can be suspended immediately, to keep them off the roads while their court cases are pending.
Penalties for driving while under suspension will also be heavier. There may also be more offences for which motorists may have to forfeit their vehicles. Currently, the courts may do so for certain offences such as illegal racing.
"We need to do more to keep irresponsible motorists off the roads. This is meant to protect other road users, who are safe and responsible," Ms Sun said.
"If you are a known danger on the roads, you should not be allowed to drive or ride."
MHA noted that currently, the penalties for irresponsible driving are less severe in Singapore compared to some other jurisdictions such as Malaysia and New South Wales, Australia.
It also noted that while the number of road accidents has gone down, feedback on irresponsible driving has gone up.
Between 2014 and 2018, the number of feedback submitted by members of the public to the Traffic Police on irresponsible driving more than doubled, from 6,900 to 18,500, the ministry said.
Between 2015 and 2018, the number of summonses issued rose by one-fifth, from 152,700 to 181,000.
On Thursday, MHA also announced that from Apr 1, it will raise the composition sum, or fines, for road traffic offences involving motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
These are for offences which are not serious enough to press criminal charges, such as making illegal U-turns and using mobile devices while driving.
"It is also important that we nip unsafe driving behavior in the bud, before serious accidents happen and people are killed or hurt," said Ms Sun.
"The sheer amount of public feedback we get on this also reflects how concerned the public is about unsafe driving behaviour."
The ministry is seeking views from the public on the proposed changes to the Road Traffic Act from Thursday to Mar 13.
A public engagement document on the proposed changes has been posted on government feedback portal REACH.
The public can give their feedback on the REACH website or email RTA_Feedback@mha.gov.sg.