Higher fines, more jail time for illegal street racers under proposed changes to law

If the amendments are passed, first-time offenders will instead face a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to a year in jail. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Speedsters, and those prone to road rage beware.

Those who promote or take part in illegal street races will face heftier fines and double the mandatory jail time should proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Act be passed into law.

The courts will also be given more leeway to disqualify motorists from driving if they are convicted in road rage cases.

These were among a slew of changes to the Road Traffic Act that were tabled in Parliament on Monday (April 5) to improve road safety here, following a spike in illegal racing cases last year.

Under the proposed amendments, the maximum penalties for street racing offences will be increased so that they are aligned with the punishment for dangerous driving.

Currently, those who are guilty of illegal racing face a fine, mandatory imprisonment and forfeiture of the vehicle involved.

First-time offenders can be jailed for up to six months and fined between $1,000 and $2,000. Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to a year and fined between $2,000 and $3,000.

If the amendments are passed, first-time offenders will instead face a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to a year in jail. Repeat offenders will be fined up to $10,000 and jailed for up to two years.

However, the amendments will also change the current vehicle forfeiture regime for illegal racing offences. A vehicle involved in illegal racing will no longer be automatically forfeited.

Instead, it will not be forfeited if the offender is not the owner of the vehicle and had used it without the owner's consent. This brings the forfeiture regime in line with other egregious offences such as dangerous driving causing death.

The proposed amendments come in the wake of the fatal high-speed car crash in Tanjong Pagar in February that killed five men, and an increase in the number of people caught for illegal racing.

Last year, the Traffic Police nabbed at least 26 people involved in illegal street races, compared with a combined total of 17 people charged with this offence in the five years prior.

Meanwhile, to increase deterrence against road rage, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has proposed giving the courts greater latitude in disqualifying perpetrators from driving.

While the courts are currently allowed to impose disqualification in road rage cases, this is only when the offender is convicted of specific criminal offences listed in the provision, such as affray, wrongful restraint and causing hurt.

With the amendments, the provision will cover all offences under any written law committed in a road rage context.

The Bill also creates a new offence to penalise those who obstruct justice in road traffic incidents. This will apply to cases where individuals mislead the Traffic Police by asking someone else to take the rap to avoid demerit points or other penalties, or if they alter, suppress or destroy information that can identify the offending driver.

It will also apply to individuals who take the rap for others.

Those convicted of the proposed offence will be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to a year, or both. Such individuals may also face disqualification from driving.

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MHA is also introducing a new offence that will penalise motorcyclists who fail to ensure that their pillion rider wears a helmet.

Motorcyclists continue to be involved in a disproportionate number of traffic accidents resulting in injury or death, according to the Traffic Police's annual statistics.

Last year, motorcyclists and pillion riders made up about 60 per cent of all traffic fatalities.

Under the proposed offence, a motorcyclist who does not ensure that his pillion rider wears a helmet can be fined up to $1,000, jailed for up to three months, or both. The maximum fine for importing or selling non-approved helmets will also be doubled from $500 to $1,000 for first-time offenders, and from $1,000 to $2,000 for repeat offenders.

Another amendment requires companies to designate someone of sufficient seniority to report to the authorities when their vehicles have been used to commit traffic offences, or face penalties. Companies will also be required to keep records for a longer period.

The changes ensure that companies here provide information to the Traffic Police in a timely manner, said MHA.

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