Transport minister: Good support for proposal to impose heavier penalties on drunk drivers

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong said a survey involving more than 345,000 respondents showed that 94 per cent of them supported the proposal to impose heavier penalties. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong said a survey involving more than 345,000 respondents showed that 94 per cent of them supported the proposal to impose heavier penalties. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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PUTRAJAYA, June 14 — 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 because it transcends racial, religious and political interests, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong.

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

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

In an interview in conjunction with his first 100 days as transport minister recently, he said the ministry was updating the relevant sections of the Act to make the proposed amendments.

The draft of the amendments had been sent to the Attorney-General’s Chambers and would be tabled at the Cabinet meeting in two weeks’ time, he added. The amendment bill will be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat next month, he said.

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.

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.

Wee said 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, the government would not tackle the issue hastily and would be guided by the principles of law.

According to him, 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 said.

Wee said the government was prepared to lower the permissible alcohol content levels for defining drink-driving, which now stand at 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breadth, 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood or 107 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine.

“Many countries use the minimum levels set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), that is 0.05g/dl, and some want the alcohol content of drivers to be at zero per cent but this is difficult because if we drink cough medicine, for example, it will show 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 the welfare of drink-driving crash victims’ next-of-kin is well taken care of.

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. — Bernama

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