What you need to know about the Amendments to the Road Traffic Act? (November 2019)

Starting November 2019, there will be new amendments to The Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2019 (“Act”) that was passed in Parliament in July 2019. These new amendments take effect on 1st November and will include provisions such as:

  • 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.

The new provisions to the license suspension and revocation system will take effect in the second half of 2020. Details of this will be announced separately.

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.

Additional Sources: 

Can death caused by careless driving be considered manslaughter?

In a forum letter to the Straits Times published on the 12th of July 2019, a reader proposed that causing death by careless driving should be considered ‘manslaughter’ and have the same harsh penalties to reflect the gravity of harm caused to the victim.

The writer also made reference to the latest changes to the Road Traffic Act, whereby the two classes of irresponsible driving offences of Dangerous Driving and Careless Driving, under Section 64 and 65 of the Road Traffic Act (Cap 276) respectively, will be amended, amongst others. You can view our explanation on this new amendment here.

The letter writer did not agree with this amendment, claiming that the punishment “does not sufficiently reflect the gravity of the transgression and the loss that is felt by the victim’s loved ones”. Instead, he proposed that this particular offence be considered ‘manslaughter’, because it would “commensurate with the gravity of the loss of life and carries a heavier sentence.”

However, the writer’s point that the charges should correctly reflect the seriousness of the offence has already been taken into consideration by the authorities and is appropriately reflected for the enhanced penalties for the two classes, especially Dangerous Driving. 

Dangerous Driving includes driving against the flow of traffic, weaving in and out of traffic, and disobeying traffic signs. An offender guilty of such an offence is more culpable than one who has driven carelessly, because he/she is fully aware that what he/she is doing is dangerous and may injure those around him/her. Hence, it deserves the higher maximum punishment of 8 years’ imprisonment and a minimum 2- year imprisonment term, when death is caused.

‘Manslaughter’ refers to the killing of another person without the relevant intention. 

Singapore does not have the specific offence of ‘vehicular manslaughter’ unlike the United States where in certain states in the country, the offence refers to cases where vehicles are used as a deadly weapon. In these cases, the punishment is similar to that of murder

In Singapore,  we have the offences of culpable homicide and murder, governed by Sections 299 and 300 of the Penal Code (Cap 224) respectively. All murders are culpable homicides, but, subject to 7 exceptions or special defences, one may instead be guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

What about careless driving and culpable homicide?

A reason why they cannot be equated is because of the definition of culpable homicide:

[W]hoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide’. 

Careless Driving does not involve any of this. The element of ‘carelessness’ denotes the lack of care of the offender that should have been taken by him/her, as would a reasonable person in the same circumstances.

Causing death by a negligent act

Causing death by Careless Driving roughly corresponds to the offence of causing death by a negligent act under Section 304A(b) of the Penal Code. This is because of the lack of intent to cause death, and the focus is on the lack of care and awareness from the offender when he/she should have been aware and careful. Additionally, the new punishment for Careless Driving is already more severe than one for causing death by a negligent act, which imposes a maximum imprisonment term of 2 years, a fine, or both.

What is the difference between careless driving and manslaughter?

The difference between the two classes can be distinguished through the manner of driving.

  • Was the motorist driving when he/she was unfit to drive safely? Was he/she feeling unwell or intoxicated?
  • Did the circumstances warrant the motorist to exercise extra care but he/she did not? Was there an oil spill on the road? Did he/she slow down?

The classes will then be further broken into four different tiers according to the extent of harm caused.

  • Death
  • Grievous Hurt
  • Hurt
  • Endangers Life (I.e. no hurt or injury caused).

What are the penalties?

In relation to the new proposed offence of Careless Driving, the maximum penalty for a first time offender who has caused death is a maximum term of 3 years’ imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine. A repeat offender can expect double the punishment. The offender will most likely be disqualified from driving and have his/her license revoked.

In any case, what is an appropriate punishment for Careless Driving may differ from person to person. After much research and discussion, the authorities have deemed the enhanced penalties appropriate for the current times in deterring people from committing this offence. 

Nonetheless, no punishment or retribution will truly be solace enough for the untimely death of a loved one.

Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Practice has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years. 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.

Penalties for Recalcitrant Drink Drivers

The Traffic Police has reported an upsurge in summonses issued to motorists from 152,700 in 2015 to 181,000 in 2018. Due to the proliferation in irresponsible and reckless driving, authorities are taking a firmer stand against serious traffic offences

Taking public feedback into consideration, they have proposed numerous changes and additions to the current Road Traffic Act to counter this worrying issue.

Currently, traffic offences may fall under the Penal Code or the Road Traffic Act. As mentioned in the Parliament sitting on 6 May 2019, the reform proposed in the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill will bring all road traffic offences under the latter Act. More severe punishments will be imposed on a variety of offences as well.

Two brand new categories of offences have been proposed – Careless Driving and Dangerous Driving.

These are analogous to the Negligent act and Rash act in the Penal Code respectively. Punishment imposed for these offences will be based on the severity of hurt caused.

Minimum mandatory sentences have been proposed for the most serious offences, such as dangerous driving and causing grievous hurt and/or death while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Additionally, a lifetime driving will be imposed on third-time offenders who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol once the Act comes into effect. Penalties proposed have almost doubled the ones found in the current Road Traffic Act.

The Straits Times have helpfully set out the notable amendments to the act and their respective penalties in a table: 

As safety of the general public is a matter of public policy, it is understandable why the government has decided to impose such harsh punishments for these irresponsible offences which threaten the lives of citizens.

To know more about what we do, or to get a consultation, feel free to contact us to speak to our team of lawyers led by Amarjit Singh Sidhu.

Amarjit has vast experience in Singapore’s laws and has defended numerous clients, including some highly-publicised criminal cases. He has guided clients over the years with his deep knowledge, as well as his compassionate approach, and supported by a strong team of lawyers.

Negligent and Criminal Driving

With one of the best traffic infrastructure in the world, Singapore’s roads are generally safe and well-maintained. Over the years, improvements in cutting-edge surveillance technology has also enabled the Traffic Police to weed out traffic offenders, often with harsh punishments.

There are many regulations in place in Singapore’s traffic law. One of the more commonly heard ones would be negligent driving.

Found in Sections 337 and 338 of the Penal Code, negligent driving is the act which endangers life or the personal safety of others. The difference between the two sections is the severity of the offences.

In Section 337, the punishment for causing hurt through a rash or negligent act on the road that would endanger human life or the personal safety of others is:

  1. Rash Act: Up to one year in prison; or a fine of up to $5,000; or both.
  2. Negligent Act: Up to six months in prison; or a fine of up to $2,500; or both.

Section 338 covers cases that result in grievous hurt. Acts that endanger life or the personal safety of others, that also resulted in serious injuries:

  1. Rash Act: Up to four years in prison; a fine of up to $10,000; or both.
  2. Negligent Act: Up to two years in prison; a fine of up to $5,000; or both.

What’s the difference between a negligent and a rash act?

To put it simply, a negligent act would be for you to switch lanes, without checking your blind spot. A rash act would be when you turn into a one-way street and continue driving against the flow of traffic.

Real life example:

In a recent case, a school’s vice-principal was jailed for 10 days and disqualified from driving for 2 and a half years for causing grievous hurt through negligent driving after crashing his car into a market.

The man was trying to reverse his car into a parking space when his car bumped into a kerb. To remedy that, he switched his gear to drive forward, but caused it to surge forward and crash right into a florist’s stall and hit three other people.

One of the victims had his foot crushed, causing him permanent disability and another suffered a fracture in her ankle. The third victim suffered minor injuries.

Due to the grievous hurt caused, by an otherwise negligent act, his case was read under Section 338.

Our Criminal Lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu, has defended numerous clients who found themselves in situations that involved negligent driving. With vast experience in Singapore’s laws, including traffic violations, Mr Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, or if you have been caught in a similar situation, feel free to contact us for a consultation.