PARLIAMENT | Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong today detailed some of the proposed amendments to the Road Transport Act 1987 that will see enhanced punishment for drink driving offenders.
Among the proposals include doubling the punishment against drunk drivers who cause death to up to 20 years imprisonment and imposing mandatory jail sentences for drivers in charge of a motor vehicle while exceeding the alcohol limit.
Some of the proposed changes are:
- Currently, Section 44 does not differentiate between causing death and causing injury. This will be differentiated in the amendment, with causing death seeing more severe punishment.
- The maximum punishment under Section 44 will be increased from 10 years imprisonment to 15 years and from a RM20,000 fine to RM100,000.
- For a subsequent offence, the maximum imprisonment period is 20 years and RM150,000 fine.
- Currently, any person convicted under Section 44 is disqualified from holding a driving licence for five years for the first offence and 10 years for the subsequent offence. This will be increased to 20 years.
- Section 45A will be amended so that punishment will be mandatory against any person who drives, attempts to drive, or is in charge of a motor vehicle while the alcohol level in the person's breath, blood, or urine exceeds the prescribed levels. The current punishment is up to a year in jail and a RM1,000 to RM6,000 fine for the first offence.
- The prescribed alcohol limit will be lowered, in line with the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommendation. The alcohol limit in breath will be lowered from 35µg/100ml to 22µg/100ml while the limit in blood will be reduced from 80µg/100ml to 50µg/100ml and 107µg/100ml to 67µg/100ml in urine.
As for calls to impose the death penalty under the Penal Code against drink driving offenders who cause death, Wee said the law requires to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver had the intent to commit murder.
"While we may be angry, we cannot take rash action so as to ensure drunk drivers do not escape the appropriate legal action," he added.
Wee was responding to a question from Shahidan Kassim (BN-Arau) about the planned amendments against drink drivers.
He said the cabinet had on June 24, in principle, agreed to the above amendments and will later this week endorse the draft bill.
The Ayer Hitam MP added that the planned amendments showed that the government is serious about dealing with drink driving which has caused 12 deaths since the start of this year.
In a follow-up question, former transport minister Anthony Loke (below) (DAP-Seremban) congratulated Wee for taking up most of the proposed changes made by the previous government.
However, he asked if the government also intends to allow Road Transport Department (RTD) officers to enforce the amended laws in addition to the police, as well as to ensure there won't be elements of corruption during enforcement.
Wee said he accepted what the previous government had done during its 22 months in power, adding that the current government got the ball rolling in less than 100 days after coming into power.
He confirmed that there are plans to allow the RTD to enforce laws against drink drivers.
He added that at present, the authorities only have 55 units of evidential breath analysers (EBA) to conduct tests on alcohol levels and funding will be needed to increase the amount.
As for corruption, Wee said it can be minimised by conducting the alcohol tests at the nearest police station or RTD office.
Minister responds to call for alcohol ban
In another follow-up question, Mohd Hatta Ramli (Amanah-Lumut) asked if the government will consider PAS' proposal to ban alcohol as a solution to drink driving problems.
Wee replied: "I've had a dialogue with PAS Youth and NGOs including from five religions and there have been many different views. We live in a diverse society and we take everyone's views."
"The Transport Ministry's position is that we follow the principles of law and the Federal Constitution.
"I'm a non-Muslim, I don't drink, it's not a problem but I also do not violate the rights of others," he said.
Wee added that there is a need to differentiate between consuming alcohol and driving while drunk.