Drivers: Do You Know the Penalties for Dangerous Driving in Singapore?
Perhaps you’re a fan of the Fast & Furious film franchise and want to try out those cool car stunts for yourself.
Or maybe you think you have the hots to be Singapore’s Best Car Drifter just because you own a sweet car.
Or maybe you’re just in a rush and are cutting in and out of the lanes so you can get home faster.
All these actions could get you charged for dangerous driving in Singapore. Do you know what the penalties are for drivers convicted of this offence?
What is the Offence of Dangerous Driving?
If a driver drives at a speed or manner dangerous to the public, he will be guilty of an offence under section 64(1) of the Road Traffic Act (RTA). Examples of dangerous driving include:
- Driving against the flow of traffic
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Disobeying traffic signals
If the driver’s dangerous driving caused another person to die, he will be guilty of the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving under section 66(1) of the RTA instead.
What are the Maximum Penalties for Dangerous Driving?
Police officers are empowered to arrest dangerous drivers without a warrant. If these drivers are convicted of driving dangerously under section 64(1) of the RTA, they face fines up to $5,000 and/or up to 12 months’ jail.
Offenders can also be disqualified from driving for a certain period of time, or for life. This disqualification is compulsory for repeat offenders.
Drivers convicted of causing death by dangerous driving under section 66(1) of the RTA can be jailed up to 5 years.
What Sentence May Drivers Convicted of Dangerous Driving get?
When deciding the appropriate sentence for a driver convicted of dangerous driving, the court will take into account:
- The harm that has resulted from the offence
- The driver’s culpability for the offence
Actual or potential harm resulting from the offence
The court will first look at how much harm has been caused, or could have been caused, by the driver’s dangerous driving. There are 4 categories of harm:
|Slight harm||Slight or moderate property damage and/or slight physical injury not requiring hospitalisation or medical leave.|
|Moderate harm||Serious property damage and/or moderate personal injury requiring hospitalisation or medical leave. However, there are no fractures or permanent injuries.|
|Serious harm||Serious personal injury which usually involves fractures. Serious personal injuries also include injuries which are permanent and/or which require significant surgery.|
|Very serious harm||Loss of limb, sight, hearing or life, or where there is paralysis.|
Culpability of the driver
3 factors which generally affect the culpability of a driver for dangerous driving are:
- Manner of driving: How the driver was driving and the extent of danger posed to road users as a result of this. Culpability would increase where there are aggravating factors such as speeding, drink-driving, sleepy driving, driving while using a mobile phone, disobeying traffic rules, driving against the flow of traffic or off the road, being involved in a car chase, or having poor control of the vehicle.
- Circumstances of driving: Circumstances surrounding the incident which may have increased the danger for road users. Aggravating circumstances would include dangerous driving during rush hour when there is heavy traffic, driving within a residential or school zone, driving a heavy vehicle which is more difficult to control and requires a quicker reaction time, or where the driver intended to travel a long distance to reach his destination.
- Reasons for driving: The driver’s reasons or motivations for driving dangerously. Where the dangerous driving was deliberate, there would be higher culpability as compared a driver who drove dangerously in an emergency situation.
The court has stated that where the harm caused and the driver’s culpability are both low, a fine would usually be sufficient. However, the court will usually impose a jail term where the harm caused and the driver’s culpability are both high.
Case Study: PP v Aw Tai Hock
In PP v Aw Tai Hock, the accused was involved in a car chase between his taxi and a car owned by a man named Andy after Andy provoked him. The accused was subsequently charged with dangerous driving under section 64(1) of the RTA for:
- Deliberately hitting the driver’s side-door of Andy’s car 3 times
- Speeding in a carpark
- Deliberately hitting the rear of Andy’s car when it slowed down for a speed bump
- Making a wide left turn and travelling against the flow of traffic
- Failing to give way to a pedestrian at a zebra crossing
- Making 2 illegal U-turns, where the first almost caused him to hit Andy’s car
- Failing to keep a proper look-out and almost hitting the back of a van
Throughout the chase, the accused failed to slow down at 11 speed bumps and 5 “stop” lines. He also ignored 6 “slow” signs. The accused almost hit a lamp post and continued to chase Andy even while in a school zone.
The accused’s case was classified to be one of “moderate harm” and “high culpability”. The case fell within the “moderate harm” category because:
- There was moderate property damage to the vehicles involved in the car chased. For example, the front bonnet of the accused’s taxi was crumpled inwards and the rear bumper of Andy’s car jutted out.
- Andy also suffered personal injury requiring 4 days of medical leave. However, these injuries did not fall within the “serious harm” category as they were neither major nor permanent.
- The accused’s driving caused potential harm to the public. He was driving in a residential and school zone and just because other people on the roads had not been harmed did not mean the accused should receive a lower sentence.
The case also fell within the “high culpability” category because:
- The accused’s manner of driving was persistent and deliberate, without care for the possible danger he was causing to others.
- The circumstances surrounding the incident was such it occurred in a built-up residential area (including a school zone), where many road users and pedestrians had been endangered by the accused’s dangerous driving. The car chase was also a long one, lasting around 5 minutes and covering a substantial distance.
The court also held that Andy’s initial aggression did not provide any justification for the accused’s dangerous driving. The accused’s actions after being provoked were not immediate impulsive acts, but an intentional pursuit of Andy’s car in retaliation.
For his actions, the accused was jailed for 5 months and disqualified from all classes of driving for 3 years.
The penalties for dangerous driving offences are imposed with the purpose of deterring the commission of future offences by both repeat and new offenders. Quite apart from the possible harm to people (including yourself) or damage to your car, driving dangerously is definitely not worth being fined or going to jail for.
Keep these penalties in mind when you next think about swerving in and out of traffic to get to your destination faster, or getting into a car race, or beating that red light.
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