The Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2019 (“Act”) that was passed in Parliament in July 2019 took effect starting November 2019. Besides the reclassification of offences, there are new provisions that specifically target dangerous behaviour such as drink driving and using mobile devices while on the road, as well as changes to the license suspension and revocation system.
While most of the amendments took effect in 2019, some of them will only start in the second half of 2020.
Here are some of the changes you can expect:
Reclassification of offences: Irresponsible driving offences will now be classified into Reckless or Dangerous Driving and Driving Without Care or Reasonable Consideration. This means Dangerous Driving is distinguished from Careless Driving through variables such as whether the driver was in the condition to drive safely, or if the traffic situation required the driver to be extra careful but he/she did not.
The Act also now categorises offences into four tiers which represent the different levels of harm caused. These include Hurt, Grievous Hurt, Endangers Life and Death.
Heavier punishments: For offences including drink driving, driving against the flow of traffic, swerving across lanes at high speed, and speeding past pedestrian crossings when one does not have the right of way, offenders will now face much heavier imprisonment terms and fines as compared to the existing Penal Code and Road Traffic Act.
Motorists who commit a Dangerous or Careless Driving offence under the influence of any illicit substances will also be liable for additional penalties that will be served consecutively. Repeat offenders can also expect higher maximum penalties compared to first-time offenders.
Longer bans: Irresponsible motorists will now be kept off the roads for much longer through the widening of the range of offences that will lead to minimum disqualification (DQ) periods, immediate suspension and vehicle forfeitures. Penalties for driving without a licence, or while suspended will result in increased punishments.
A new aggravating factor: The courts will now be able to consider a motorist’s past compounded road traffic offences as aggravating factors for his/her current road traffic offence.
Forfeiture of Motor Vehicles
According to Section 65AA, The Court may order the forfeiture of a motor vehicle if its driver has been convicted of reckless or dangerous driving on the application of the Public Prosecutor. However, if it can be proven that the person who committed the offence is not the vehicle owner, and that the driver had used the vehicle without the owner’s consent, then the vehicle must be released within one month from the date of seizure.
The 2020 Provisions
While the latest amendment to the Road Traffic Act was announced and implemented in 2019, some of the new provisions only take effect starting August 2020.
Section 65B pertains to the use of mobile communication devices while driving. As long as the driver of a vehicle holds a mobile communication in his/her hand while the vehicle is moving, the person will be guilty of an offence and might face up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine of not more than $1,000. Repeat offenders may face double the jail term and/or fine.
At first glance, it may seem like this law does not apply to wearable devices like smart watches, as long as it is worn as intended on the wrist. However, if you are using that device for a communicative function while driving, then it becomes an offence.
What is Communicative Function?
According to Section 65B(3), communicative function refers to any of the following:
- Sending or receiving audio phone or video calls;
- Sending or receiving of electronic documents, this can include .PDF or .DOC or any files from work;
- Sending or receiving still or moving images, this can include photographs or gifs;
- Sending or receiving audio or video files such as music or films;
- Providing access to the internet, such as turning on your wireless hotspot for your passenger while driving;
If you have been summoned for a traffic offence recently that falls within one of these amendments, then it’s best to speak to a lawyer who will be able to guide you on your next course of action.
Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Practice has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years from traffic offences, family disputes to high-profile criminal cases. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.