Irresponsible motorists to face harsher penalties; new dangerous, careless driving offences to be created

PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Two new classes of road traffic offences - dangerous driving and careless driving - will be created in a bid to deter irresponsible motorists, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Thursday (Feb 21).

This is in tandem with the ministry's plans to impose harsher penalties for serious offences where motorists show egregious driving behaviour and cause serious harm to victims, such as in drink-driving cases.

In a statement on Thursday, MHA said it will be enhancing the criminal penalties and raising the composition fine sums for these offences.

Dangerous driving offences will be distinguished from careless driving based on the manner of driving, such as whether the motorist was driving at excessively high speeds or manoeuvring his vehicle in very close proximity to other vehicles, MHA added.

Other factors include whether the motorist was sleep-deprived when driving or was not in a state to drive safely, and whether the situation required the motorist to exercise extra care but he had failed to do so.

The two new offences under the Road Traffic Act will correspond broadly to offences of rash act and negligent act under the Penal Code.

Each offence will have four tiers of severity, catering to different levels of harm caused: death; grievous hurt; hurt; and endangering a life.

With the changes, those found guilty of dangerous driving could face a maximum jail term of eight years for the first offence, up from the corresponding current penalty of five years.

Offenders will also face a minimum sentence of at least a year, if death or grievous hurt is caused. The jail sentence will be doubled for repeat offenders.

The courts will also be able to impose a minimum disqualification period of eight years if there was death or grievous hurt.

As for careless driving, those convicted will soon face up to three years' jail for the first offence, with sentences for repeated offenders doubled.

This is up from the current jail term of a maximum of six months for first-time offenders.

"The basis for higher penalties is that motorists, being in control of a vehicle that they know can potentially cause great harm to other road users, ought to exercise greater care and responsibility," MHA said in the statement.

Motorists found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while committing these offences will also face additional penalties.

From April 1, the ministry will also be raising the composition fine sums for road traffic offences involving motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

The ministry's move to strengthen deterrence against irresponsible driving behaviour comes amid a growing number of public feedback on such cases in recent years.

The number of summonses issued has also risen, despite fewer road traffic accidents seen in the last five years, MHA added.

There were 22 per cent fewer fatal accidents last year, compared with 2014. Similarly, the number of injury accidents dipped 3.6 per cent during this period.

However, between 2014 and last year, the number of feedback submitted by the public to the Traffic Police on irresponsible driving more than doubled, from 6,900 to 18,500.

Between 2015 and 2018, the number of summonses issued by the Traffic Police rose by a fifth, from 152,700 to 181,000.

In light of this, MHA conducted a review of penalties under the Road Traffic Act to further improve road safety.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.