Motorists who drink and drive will face harsher punishment as penalties for road traffic offences come under review in a clampdown on irresponsible road users, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee yesterday.
He said the Government "will seek to increase the penalties for offences that result in death or hurt to others", especially if drivers are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or are repeat offenders.
At the launch of this year's sgCarMart anti-drink-drive campaign organised by the Traffic Police and Singapore Road Safety Council, Mr Lee added: "We want these stiffer penalties to serve as a strong deterrent against drink driving."
With the festive season coming up, drink driving remains a concern, he said, although the number of arrests, at 1,540 motorists from January to September, has dipped by 13 per cent over the same period last year. Still, there were 103 drink-driving-related accidents in the first three quarters of the year, which resulted in three people dying and 153 injured.
The maximum penalty for drink driving over the legal limit is a $5,000 fine or six months' jail on a first conviction, and 12 months' jail on a subsequent conviction. Those convicted will also be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months.
Current penalties for drink driving
•The maximum penalty for driving while one's alcohol level is over the legal limit is a $5,000 fine or six months' jail on a first conviction, and 12 months' jail on a subsequent conviction. Those convicted will also be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months.
•Anyone who causes someone's death by driving recklessly can be jailed for up to five years.
•The maximum punishment for driving without due care and attention is a $1,000 fine and six months' jail on a first conviction, and a $2,000 fine and 12 months' jail for subsequent convictions.
•The maximum penalty for failing to stop after an accident is a $1,000 fine or three months' jail on a first conviction, and a $2,000 fine or six months' jail subsequently.
Causing the death of another by driving recklessly can draw a jail term of up to five years.
On the upcoming review, deputy commander of the Traffic Police and assistant commissioner of police Devrajan Bala said penalties for drink-driving offences resulting in injury or death could be enhanced to send a strong signal to those who continue to drink and drive.
The Straits Times understands the review is in its preliminary stages and that more details will be released at a later date.
Experts said the review for these offences is long overdue and a strong message sent that the intoxicated should not get into the driver's seat.
Criminal lawyer Amolat Singh said: "The authorities have thus far been very cautious in their approach and did not formulate very harsh penalties straightaway. Despite this calibrated approach, there are still many cases of drink driving. I doubt anyone will disagree with these harsher measures because they will make the roads safer for everybody and prevent unnecessary carnage."
On average, 176 people are killed every year on the roads.
Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, told The Straits Times he strongly supports any effort that makes the roads safer for all Singaporeans. He said: "The penalties for drink driving must be sufficient to act as an effective deterrent."
Number of people killed on average every year on the roads
Number of drink-driving-related accidents in the first three quarters of the year.
Mr Lee said the Traffic Police will continue public education programmes, enforce the laws and deter such motorists through stiff penalties, and engage stakeholders by partnering entertainment outlet operators.
In October, businessman Raymond Chiang Zhi Hao, 29, was jailed for four months, fined $4,000 and banned from driving for eight years after pleading guilty to causing death through negligence and drink driving.
Chiang's blood had almost twice the legal ethanol limit when he rammed into a stationary taxi on an expressway in March last year. The taxi driver, who had been standing outside his vehicle, died in November the same year.
Chiang had a previous conviction for drink driving.
Mr Lee said: "When we think of the harm that has been caused to the victim and his family, and the irresponsible attitude of the driver, it is very clear that we need to take a tougher stance against such acts."
Actor and host, as well as co-founder of a mobile valet app, Paul Foster, 35, said it is inexcusable to be drinking and driving.
"We've got a plethora of options now to get home safe. It's just more of an impetus on the individual to do so."
•Additional reporting by Jose Hong