Tougher penalties for drunk drivers

pic by BERNAMA

THE Road Transport Act 1987 (Act 333) will be beefed up this year after the Cabinet approved in principle tougher punishments for drivers driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The move would stiffen penalties, including fines and jail terms, against offenders found guilty of driving in an intoxicated state. The amendment involves Sections 41 to 45 of the Road Transport Act.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said under Section 44, the current maximum jail time is 10 years.

“The amendment will see first-time offenders facing 15 years’ imprisonment and 20 years for the subsequent offence.

“Currently, the maximum fine for those found guilty is RM20,000. So, as an example, the amendment may see an increase to RM100,000 for the first offence and RM150,000 for the following offence.

“We will also suspend their drivers’ licence for 20 years, from the current 10 years,” he said in response to a question by Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim (Perikatan Nasional-Arau) yesterday.

Wee said the draft amendment to Act 333 has been submitted to the Attorney General’s Chambers, which the Cabinet is expected to meet and finalise in two weeks.

The minister expects a bill for the amendment to be tabled in the current Parliament sitting.

Under current laws, those convicted of drunk driving could be charged under Section 45A(1), which carries a fine of between RM1,000 and RM6,000, or jail of up to 12 months, if convicted.

Wee said the government is prepared to lower the amount of alcohol content allowed while driving, which is in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations.

Currently, Malaysia has set the limit at a dose of 35mg of alcohol per 100mm of breath; 80mg of alcohol per 100mm of blood; or 107mg of alcohol for 100mm of urine. WHO recommends a blood alcohol content of 0.05g per decilitre.

Wee said amendments to the Act were based on feedback received from 345,021 respondents via a survey conducted by the ministry.

Recent incidents of driving under alcohol intoxication had resulted in the loss of lives and fuelled public outrage demanding heavier penalties on offenders. He said 3% of all respondents admitted to driving after consuming alcoholic drinks, 11% had been involved in a drink-driving accident, while 5% said they refused to use public transport despite being intoxicated.

“We also found that 98% had agreed that the government should not compromise on this issue. Some 94% agreed that all three existing penalties should be tougher, while 43% wanted the death penalty for accidents involving deaths,” the minister said.

Wee said the public, however, should not rush to punish offenders by demanding a death sentence under Section 302 of the Penal Code.

“If Section 302 of the Penal Code applies, it must be proven in court that drunk drivers have the intention to kill the victim. This is difficult to prove. It is best to allow the police to investigate and use laws that are appropriate to charge the suspect,” he said.