SINGAPORE: New Mandatory Minimum Sentences (MMS) will be imposed on the most serious irresponsible driving offences in an amendment to the Road Traffic Act introduced in Parliament on Monday (May 6).
These minimum sentences will meted out to offenders who show “egregious driving behaviour” and “cause death or injuries with long-lasting impact on the victim”.
The amendments will also introduce two classes of irresponsible driving offences that the MMS will be applied to: Dangerous driving and careless driving. The two categories will roughly correspond to the Rash Act and Negligent Act in the Penal Code.
In effect, the MMS will be meted out to drivers charged for dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing grievous hurt.
For dangerous driving causing death, first time offenders will face up to eight years in jail, with an MMS of two years. Second time offenders will face a minimum mandatory jail term of four years, with up to 15 years' imprisonment.
As for first time offenders charged with dangerous driving causing grievous hurt, they will be subject to one year MMS, and face up to five years in jail.
Second-time offenders on the above charge will face a two-year minimum jail sentence, with up to 10 years' imprisonment.
There will also be add-on maximum penalties for dangerous and careless driving offences, should the motorist have committed the offence while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or failed to provide a specimen for analysis.
A person found guilty of dangerous driving while causing death while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or failed to provide a specimen for analysis, will face up to 10 years in jail with a minimum sentence of three years if he is a first-time offender.
A second-time offender for the above charge will face up to 19 years in jail, with a six-year MMS.
A person found guilty of dangerous driving while causing grievous hurt while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or failed to provide a specimen for analysis, will face up to six years in jail with a minimum sentence of 18 months if he is a first-time offender. He will also be subject to a fine ranging from S$2,000 to S$10,000.
A second-time offender for the above charge will face up to 12 years in jail, with a three-year MMS as well as a fine ranging from S$5,000 to S$20,000.
These changes come in the wake of an observed increase in irresponsible and reckless driving by the Traffic Police, with the number of summonses issued to motorists increased from 152,700 in 2015 to 181,000 in 2018.
In addition, the Traffic Police has also noted that the penalties for irresponsible driving in Singapore are less severe than in other jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
The current maximum imprisonment term for causing death by dangerous driving in Singapore is imprisonment of up to five years, while other jurisdictions have a maximum penalty of up to 10 or 14 years.
The MMS is part of enhanced criminal penalties included in the new amendments to deter irresponsible driving.
UP TO THREE YEARS' JAIL FOR DRIVING WITHOUT A LICENCE
Under the amendments, the penalties for driving under disqualification, suspension and driving without a licence will also be enhanced.
The biggest change are the proposed amendments to penalties for driving without a licence.
Currently, first time offenders will face up to three months imprisonment and a S$1,000 fine, while second time offenders will face up to six months imprisonment and S$2,000 fine.
The enhanced penalties will mean that those driving without a licence will face up to three years imprisonment and an S$10,000 fine for their first offence, and a six-year imprisonment and an S$20,000 fine for their second offence.
TIGHTENING REGULATORY REGIMES
The Traffic Police will now give motorists four weeks to file their appeals for licence suspension and revocation when they have exceeded the maximum allowable demerit points.
After the four weeks, the Traffic Police will have the power to suspend or revoke the licence, even if an appeal is underway.
“This is to prevent motorists from filing multiple appeals in order to delay the start of the suspension or revocation,” said the Traffic Police.
In addition, for motorists who have accumulated five or more suspensions, the period of suspension will be increased from a maximum of three years to five years.
Compounded sentences will also take effect, where the courts will be able to take into account a motorist’s driving history in dealing out sentences.
“A motorist’s driving record is a useful indicator of his driving behaviour,” said the Traffic Police, when explaining the rationale for proposed change.
ACCIDENTS INVOLVING ANIMALS
Under the new amendments to the Road Traffic Act, the definition of "animals" will also change.
Currently, motorists are only required to stop, contact the owner and render assistance for certain species of animals, such as horses, cattle, pigs, goats and dogs.
The Traffic Police has now expanded the definition to include all species of animals.
Motorists would now be required to stop - providing it is safe to do so - the vehicle if he has “reasonable ground to believe that the animal involved in the accident has an owner or that the presence of the injured or dead animal on the road may pose a hazard to other road users”, said the Traffic Police.
The Ministry of Home Affairs noted broad public support for the proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Act, through a series of public consultations conducted between February and March this year.
In response to concerns that motorists would be held liable for accidents caused by victims, such as pedestrians, cyclists or PMD riders, the Traffic Police provided assurances that they would take into account the motorist’s driving behaviour.
“When assessing whether a motorist should be held liable for an accident, Traffic Police will consider whether the motorist had been driving safely.
“In addition, if the victim had engaged in risk-taking behaviour and violated traffic rules, Traffic Police will take the necessary enforcement action against him."