Thursday, January 26, 2012

No need to amend Act - Minister

There is no need to amend the Road Transport Act 1987 as the mandatory jail sentence for dangerous driving leading to the death of accident victims is already provided under the act.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha in a statement today said studies, however, could be done to gauge the effectiveness of the existing law with the aim of improving it in future.

He said there are six sections that incorporated prison sentences - varying between three months to 10 years - based on the seriousness of the offences committed by drivers.

"The offences were causing death by reckless or dangerous driving, reckless and dangerous driving, careless and inconsiderate driving, driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs and being in charge of motor vehicles when under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs," he said.

Kong said Section 41, 42, 43, 44, 45 and 45A all included prison sentences that could be imposed to the offender.

The minister was responding to a proposal by Road Safety Council member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye on Sunday to impose mandatory jail sentences on drivers who cause fatal road accidents.

On Wednesday, Lee made the call in response to Ops Sikap 25 which saw an increase of 63% of traffic summonses, as compared with 59,065 summonses issued during the corresponding period of the previous operation.

This was one of four measures he proposed to enhance the ongoing effort to reduce road accidents and deaths in the country.

The proposal won the support of Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who on Wednesday said raising public awareness of the dangers of reckless driving has not had much impact.

"If the jail term can reduce the percentage of fatalities on the road, then we have no choice. Educating and appealing alone does not seem to work," he said.

Hishammuddin said the enforcement agencies and the government have tried to educate the public through awareness programmes and direct appeals.

However, he said, this did not seem to change the public's attitude and the fatality rate had increased.

But several other parties disagree with the proposal.

Bar Council President Lim Chee Wee said it was not proper to impose a mandatory sentence on an offender who causes an accident involving death as the merits of each case have to be reviewed.

"The discretion of the judge must not be restrained. Punishments are not just to punish but also to rehabilitate (traffic offenders)," he said, reports Bernama.

Nevertheless, Malaysian Road Safety Council Research Institute (Miros) director-general Assoc Prof Dr Wong Shaw Voon said a mandatory jail sentence is a deterrent.

He said the punishment, however, should not be arbitrarily imposed without scrutinising the offence based on its level of seriousness.

He said a mandatory sentence, if implemented, would enhance the awareness of motorists to be more careful and prioritise safety when on the road.

Peninsular Malaysia Road Transport Officers Union president Hamzah Masri said he hopes more awareness campaigns will be held to boost understanding of the laws, to make them more effective.

Lee, in defending his proposal, said mandatory jail sentences are the best move to check increasing deaths from accidents each year.

"Deaths from accidents went up to 6,282 in 2007, 6,527 in 2008, 6,745 in 2009 and 6,872 in 2010, 60% of the dead were motorcyclists," he added.

Lee also said mandatory jail sentences had been implemented in Australia, and that the time has come for Malaysia to adopt the regulation.

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