SINGAPORE - Illegal racers and those who get others to assume responsibility for their traffic violations will face harsher penalties from Wednesday (June 30), as a slew of previously amended traffic laws takes effect.
With the changes, electric bicycle riders must also start registering for an online theory test from Wednesday. Companies whose drivers are involved in an offence while driving a company vehicle will be required to quickly identify their driver to the traffic police.
The harsher penalties for wide-ranging offences are a result of changes to the Road Traffic Act passed by Parliament in May.
The provisions on illegal races, in particular, were made after 26 people were caught taking part in illegal street races last year, up from 17 people in total charged with this offence from 2015 to 2019.
The Tanjong Pagar crash during Chinese New Year in February that killed five people was also believed to be in part caused by the driver speeding.
From Wednesday, those who promote or take part in illegal speed races can be fined up to $5,000, up from the previous fine range of between $1,000 and $2,000. They can also be jailed for up to a year, double the previous maximum of six months.
Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to two years - up from a year - and fined up to $10,000, much higher than the $2,000 to $3,000 they could have got before.
Separately, those who mislead the traffic police by getting others to take the rap for them, as well as those who take the rap for others, can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to a year, or both, in a new offence created to penalise those who obstruct justice.
They may also be disqualified from driving, a punishment which from Wednesday can be dished out to those who commit an offence in a road rage context.
This disqualification is on top of the other penalties the motorist may already face for a road rage incident - voluntarily causing hurt, for instance. The new category of offence is so that more hostile actions, no matter what they are, can be covered under the law as long as it is a case of road rage.
The courts will decide whether or not to disqualify the driver, and how long the period of disqualification will be.
Other changes to take effect from Wednesday include harsher penalties - three demerit points in addition to the previous fine - for motorcyclists whose pillion riders are not wearing a helmet or wearing a non-approved helmet, as well as the start of e-bike theory tests for those who wish to ride their devices on roads, cycling paths and shared paths.
From next year, those who ride e-bikes without having passed the test will be liable for an offence. The devices continue to be banned on pedestrian footpaths.
The changes to the Road Traffic Act affect companies too, which from Wednesday will be required to keep records of their drivers for a year, instead of six months, in case they are involved in traffic offences while driving company vehicles.
They will also need to designate a “responsible officer” of sufficient seniority who may be liable if the company cannot or will not identify its driver to the traffic police.
Meanwhile, several changes made to the Road Traffic Act in 2019 meant to deter irresponsible driving have kicked in on Tuesday.
For drivers who have accumulated more than the maximum allowable demerit points, the revocation or suspension of their licence now takes effect four weeks after the date of notice, regardless of whether, or when, an appeal has been scheduled.
The order will then be rescinded only when the appeal is successful, streamlining the process and making sure the removal of such drivers from the road is not delayed.
Those who are suspended again after five or more prior suspensions will also have their suspension period increased from up to three years to up to five years. All probationary licences held by a motorist will now be revoked as long as one of his probationary licences is revoked.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said on a Facebook post on Tuesday that the amendments should make Singapore’s roads safer.
“Let’s work together towards safer roads in Singapore,” he posted.