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New amendments to Road Traffic Act spell out tougher punishments like longer jail terms and heavier fines

Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo also spoke of is giving authority and discretion to Traffic Police (TP) to deliver immediate suspensions for careless driving offences that cause death or grievous hurt and for all dangerous driving offences.

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Major amendments to the Road Traffic Act (RTA) were passed in Parliament on Monday, July 8. Heftier penalties such as longer jail sentences and heavier fines, especially for repeat offenders and those found driving under the influence, are some of the changes motorists can expect from the RTA revisions.

Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo spoke in Parliament, citing the timeliness of a thorough review of the RTA.

“While the RTA has been updated regularly, the last comprehensive review was conducted more than 20 years ago, in 1996. The Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2019 is therefore timely,” second minister TEO remarked.

Here is a summary of the amendments made to the RTA:

TWO OFFENCE CATEGORIES: There will be two official offence categories moving forward — careless driving and dangerous driving.

PENALTIES TO DEPEND ON CIRCUMSTANCES AND DAMAGE LEVEL: When deciding on penalties to be meted out to offenders, authorities will review the circumstances of the offence as well as the level of damage done. The severity of penalties to be given will be dependent on the situation — whether or not someone got hurt, if there was grievous injury inflicted, or if the offence resulted in someone’s death.

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REPEAT OFFENDERS TO GET HEAVIER PENALTIES: Whether the driver is a first-time offender or a repeat offender will figure largely in what kind of penalty they will receive. The maximum penalties and minimum mandatory sentences for repeat offenders will be higher than those for first-time offenders.

DANGEROUS DRIVING RESULTING IN FATALITY: The penalty for causing a fatal accident by driving dangerously is up to eight years of jail time versus the current penalty of up to five years. Repeat offenders can expect jail time of anywhere between four to 15 years as compared to two- to eight-year sentences for first-time offenders.

CARELESS DRIVING RESULTING IN FATALITY: The penalty for causing a fatal accident by driving carelessly is up to three years in prison, plus fines, versus the current penalty of up to two years. Repeat offenders can expect jail time of up to six years plus fines as compared to up to three years and a fine for first-time offenders.

DANGEROUS DRIVING + DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE RESULTING IN FATALITY: First-time offenders of dangerous driving causing death who were also under the influence of drugs or alcohol will face further penalties of one to two more years in prison plus a period of at least two more years of disqualification from driving. Repeat offenders will face an additional two to four more years in jail and five years to a lifetime of disqualification from driving.

DRIVING DISQUALIFICATION PERIODS: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will also implement minimum disqualification periods for offences that cause death and grievous hurt. Drivers guilty of dangerous driving causing fatalities will be given a driving disqualification of at least 10 years, including immediate suspension and confiscation of vehicle.

DRIVING DISQUALIFICATION PERIODS: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will also implement minimum disqualification periods for offences that cause death and grievous hurt. Drivers guilty of dangerous driving causing fatalities will be given a driving disqualification of at least 10 years, including immediate suspension and confiscation of vehicle.

NO HELMET PENALTIES: Motorcyclists and pillion riders who are caught driving without helmets can now be penalised with a jail term of up to three months and a fine of up to $1000, a big increase from the current fine of $200.

“Our intention is for offenders driving under influence to face stiffer penalties, to signal the aggravated seriousness of their actions. We will also introduce additional levers to take irresponsible motorists off the roads more quickly and for longer,” said Second Minister Teo.

One of those additional levers Second Minister Teo spoke of is giving authority and discretion to Traffic Police (TP) to deliver immediate suspension for careless driving offences that cause death or grievous hurt and for all dangerous driving offences.

Another measure being put in place is to lengthen the licence suspension period for repeat and serial offenders — TP will be allowed to suspend driving licences for up to five years instead of the current maximum of three years.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said that some errant motorists misuse the appeals mechanism so that the suspension or revocation of their licences will be delayed.

“They file multiple unmerited appeals at different junctures and through different channels. By doing so, they drag out the process so that they can continue to drive in the interim,” said Senior Parliamentary secretary Xueling.

These changes should contribute toward a more fair process and should assist in the prevention of abuse of the appeals system. /TISG

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