KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia has announced stiffer penalties for motorists who cause death due to recklessness or driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs in the newly passed Road Transport (Amendment) Bill 2020.
The Bill was passed in the Dewan Rakyat with a simple voice vote.
Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said the amendments to the Bill were done in a comprehensive manner to tackle the problem.
He emphasised that the law was not meant to deprive people of their right to consume alcohol.
"It doesn't matter to me if you want to drink all you want and even swim in a pool of alcohol, but it becomes my concern when you drive after doing so," Datuk Seri Wee said in his ministerial reply on the Bill on Wednesday (Aug 26).
The Bill proposed that those charged under Section 41 for dangerous or reckless driving causing death could face between five and 10 years' jail, as well as a fine of not less than RM20,000 (S$6,530) and not more than RM50,000.
Currently, Section 41 of the Act states that those guilty of the offence face between two and 10 years of jail time and a fine of between RM5,000 and RM20,000.
Offenders will also have their driving licence suspended for five years if convicted, an increase of three years compared with two years previously.
The Bill proposed that those charged under Section 43 for careless and inconsiderate driving also face a fine of between RM5,000 and RM10,000, as well as a jail term of not more than 12 months for the first offence.
The Bill also proposed that anyone who drives a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, liquor or drugs to the extent of being incapable of having proper control over the vehicle, or has alcohol content exceeding the limit, and causes the death of anyone, can be jailed for between 10 and 15 years, and fined between RM50,000 and RM100,000.
Those convicted under this section will also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 10 years from the date of conviction.
Those who drive a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, liquor or drugs to the extent of being incapable of having proper control over the vehicle, or has alcohol content exceeding the limit, and cause injury to anyone, will also be prosecuted under the amendment.
They shall be liable to a jail term of between seven and 10 years and a fine of between RM30,000 and RM50,000.
The Bill also seeks to amend Section 45 G to lower the prescribed limit of alcohol content allowed in an individual to 22mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath; 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood; or 67mg of alcohol in 100ml of urine.
Currently, the prescribed limit of alcohol content allowed in an individual is 35mg of alcohol in 100ml of alcohol; 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood; or 107mg of alcohol in 100ml of urine.
Dr Wee said the government was using not only legislation to address the issue but also the three elements of education, engineering of road conditions, and enforcement.
"We cannot only use one of the elements or neglect all of them. When there is awareness and enforcement is done, then people will be more afraid to get behind the wheel after drinking," he said.
Dr Wee denied that the increase in penalties was aimed to boost government revenue, adding that the punishment was meant to deter reckless driving or driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
He said discussions were being held with e-hailing companies to display stickers on their vehicles to encourage those under the influence of alcohol to use their service instead of driving themselves.
Some lawmakers, while debating the Bill, also called for increased allocations for enforcement agencies to acquire more equipment to test for drink driving.
Dr Wee agreed to this proposal and hoped that the relevant ministries, such as Home and Finance, would consider increasing the allocation for this.