Friday 17 November, 2017

Stricter penalties for drunk drivers

Persons found guilty of driving under the influence would face hefty fines, up to five years in jail and the suspension of their driver’s licence, if the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, 2017 is passed.

The bill was introduced in Parliament today by Minister of Transport and Works, Michael Lashley, who noted that the Bill made provision for breathalyzer testing, as well as random drug testing for persons operating public service vehicles (PSVs) and heavy cargo vehicles.

The wide-ranging Bill makes provision for the registration of manufacturers of registration number plates, the regulation of all-terrain vehicles, breathalyser testing, disabled parking and other related matters.

Among the proposed amendments are penalties for driving a motor vehicle “on a road or other public place” while under the influence of drugs or alcohol beyond the legal limit.

The prescribed limit is 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath; 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood; or 107 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine.

First-time offenders can face a $5,000 fine or two years’ imprisonment or both on summary conviction; while second or subsequent convictions can result in a $10,000 fine or five years in prison or both.

Additionally, first-time offenders will be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 12 months from the date of the conviction. A second conviction would see them being unable to hold or get a driving licence for a period of five years after conviction. Any subsequent convictions would ban them from having a licence permanently. Provision is made for judicial discretion and for such convictions to be appealed.

Minister Lashley said there will be a public sensitisation programme on the introduction of breathalyser testing, noting, “The number one priority for the Ministry of Transport and Works is improving road safety; improving the safety of public transport and transport services on land.”

He said, though difficult to source, there was data on accidents caused by drunk driving and insisted that while some might feel the incidence was low, “you can’t wait until it gets out of hand” to address the issue.

“It’s best to have it now so it can act as a deterrent – so we can save lives; so that we can protect people on the highways; we can protect road users,” he added.