NMP suggests fines pegged to value of car to boost road safety

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said that the Ministry of Home Affairs will study the suitability and impact of implementing such a system.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said that the Ministry of Home Affairs will study the suitability and impact of implementing such a system.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Fines for traffic offences should be pegged to the open market value of the offending motorist's vehicle, which would enhance the deterrent effect against unsafe driving.

In doing so, motorists who own luxury cars would pay a bigger fine for the same offence compared with those who drive cheaper vehicles, and this would make fines more meaningful as a deterrent, said Nominated MP Walter Theseira yesterday.

This would be a more practical way here than pegging fines to the income levels of errant motorists, he added, citing the example of a Finnish businessman who was fined €54,024 (S$82,400) for driving at 64 miles (103km) per hour in a 50 mile per hour zone.

"I think it reasonable to presume that the driver of a large luxury car is able to pay more than one driving a cheaper vehicle, and would likely regard the demerit points and other consequences of an offence as far more serious than the value of the fine itself," Mr Theseira added.

"In fact, insofar as many luxury cars are marketed as safer than less well-equipped cars, there is even more reason to increase the optimal fine as a deterrent, since the perceived risk of injury to the drivers themselves will be lower and they may be more inclined to speed."

In response to Dr Theseira's suggestion, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling noted that while some jurisdictions such as Finland have implemented an income-based system, others such as Britain had piloted similar trials that were eventually discontinued.

She added that the Ministry of Home Affairs will study the suitability and impact of implementing a similar system.

  • Questions on the enhanced laws

  • Would a motorist be punished twice for committing dangerous or careless driving offences while driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs?

    There is no "double penalty", said Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo.

    A motorist committing DUI offences will be liable for penalties, even if he was not driving dangerously or carelessly. If he was also driving dangerously or carelessly, he would be liable for penalties for that offence instead of DUI.

    By considering an accused person's past compounded offences in sentencing, does it change the legal position that compounding an offence amounts to an acquittal?

    Mrs Teo said the courts should be able to consider an individual's history of past compounded offences, for example, whether he had one or many such offences. "In any case, this will only apply within the Road Traffic Act," she said.

    She said those who choose to accept compounded offences should do so with the awareness that they could be treated as an aggravating factor in a future conviction.

    Are motorists liable in accidents involving jaywalkers?

    A motorist who abides by the traffic rules but knocks down a jaywalker because the latter appeared suddenly will not be liable, Mrs Teo said.

    A driver will be prosecuted if he is found to have not been driving safely. The jaywalker may also be taken to task, Mrs Teo said.

    Zaihan Mohamed Yusof

This was one of many suggestions by MPs during the second reading of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, which also saw one NMP sharing her close shave with the dangers of discretionary right-turn junctions.

Drawing gasps from the House, Professor Lim Sun Sun revealed that she was knocked down last month while crossing the road at the junction of Upper Changi Road East and Somapah Road, by a double-decker bus making a discretionary right turn.

While she was largely unscathed apart from "severe aching" the next few days, the incident showed that such junctions are "fundamentally problematic", said Prof Lim.

The issue was also raised by other MPs, who urged the Land Transport Authority to expedite the implementation of red, amber, green (RAG) arrows to control right turns at traffic light junctions. Last April, LTA said it would take five years to replace the bulk of discretionary right turns. Of the around 1,600 traffic junctions, over 250 have been installed with RAG arrows so far.

Other suggestions yesterday included leveraging on new technologies to enhance road safety.

Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC) suggested issuing rebates to car dealers who install safety-enabling technologies such as auto-brake functions in their vehicles.

The use of ignition interlock devices - which require drivers to blow into a mouthpiece to measure their alcohol levels before they can start the vehicle - was also mooted by several MPs including Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC), who said these devices should be installed in vehicles owned or driven by convicted drink drivers.

Some MPs also urged the Home Ministry to continue to educate road users. Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) called for the ministry to engage and shape the behaviours of vocational drivers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2019, with the headline 'NMP suggests fines pegged to value of car to boost road safety'. Subscribe