Huge support for heavier penalties on drunk drivers

by BERNAMA/ graphic by MZUKRI

THE move to amend the Road Transport Act 1987 (Act 333) to provide for heavier punishment against reckless drivers and those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is getting support as it transcends racial, religious and political interests, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.

He said a survey involving more than 345,000 respondents showed that 94% of them supported the proposal to impose heavier penalties by way of fines, jail terms and disqualification from driving.

Wee added that he had also received messages from his friends in the opposition expressing support for the move to mete out heavier punishment on offenders.

“The ministry is updating the relevant sections of the Act to make the proposed amendments.

“The draft of the amendments has been sent to the Attorney-General’s Chambers and will be tabled at the Cabinet meeting in two weeks’ time and we are looking to table the amendment bill in the Dewan Rakyat next month,” he said in an interview in conjunction with his first 100 days as Transport Minister recently.

Under Section 45A (1) of the Road Transport Act, anyone caught drink-driving can be fined between RM1,000 and RM6,000 or jailed up to 12 months, upon conviction.

For fatal accidents caused by drink-driving, offenders can be charged under Section 44 of the Act, which provides for a maximum fine of RM10,000 and jail term of up to 12 months, upon conviction.

Despite public calls for drunk drivers in fatal accident cases to be punished with the death sentence or charged with murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code, Wee said the government will not tackle the issue hastily and will be guided by the principles of law.

He said Section 302 requires the prosecution to prove in court that the drunk driver concerned had the intention to kill.

“We don’t want them to go scot-free due to the failure to prove intention. We have to go by the principles of law; we may be angry, but we should not act hastily,” he added.

Wee stressed that the government was prepared to lower the permissible alcohol content levels for defining drink-driving, which now stands at 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres (ml) of breath, 80 milligrammes (mg) of alcohol in 100ml of blood or 107mg of alcohol in 100ml of urine.

“Many countries use the minimum levels set by the World Health Organisation which is 0.05 grammes per decilitres, and some want the alcohol content of drivers to be at 0%, but this is difficult because if we take cough medicine, for example, it will show some alcohol reading and this matter needs to be fine-tuned,” he said.

Wee said the government is in the midst of reviewing laws to ensure that the welfare of drink-driving crash victims’ next-of-kin is well taken care of.

Meanwhile, he said the previous plan by the Transport Ministry on the mandatory use of child safety seats in vehicles would not be abolished but the approach to be adopted would be reviewed.