Drink driving laws will work only if there’s enforcement, says MMA

A tour bus driver was charged with drink driving after his vehicle crashed into the backyard of a terrace house in Sungai Ara, Penang, in November last year.

PETALING JAYA: Amendments to the Road Transport Act 1987 will only be effective if they are enforced strictly, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said.

The rise in the number of drink driving cases has gained widespread attention of late, with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday stating that 21 road accidents – and eight deaths – involving drunken drivers had been reported in the first five months of this year alone.

He was alarmed as only 23 cases were reported during the whole of last year.

He said the transport ministry had been instructed to formulate amendments to the Road Transport Act 1987 for heavier punishment for individuals found driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, stating that he expected the amendments to be finalised by mid-June before they were brought to the Dewan Rakyat to be tabled at the next sitting.

MMA president Dr N Ganabaskaran.

“These amendments are much-needed measures. However, they can only work with regular enforcement,” said MMA president Dr N Ganabaskaran in a statement today.

“We have been hot and cold on enforcement.

“It must be noted that while our country is among the strictest in the world in laws against dangerous drugs, illegal drugs still find its way into the country.

“It is regular enforcement that will ensure the effectiveness of the heavier penalties for DUI (driving under the influence).”

Under the current law, those caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be charged under Section 45 (1) of the Road Transport Act, which carries a fine of not less than RM1,000 and not more than RM6,000, or a maximum of 12 months’ imprisonment upon conviction.

Those charged with drink driving causing death would be charged under Section 44 of the same act, which carries a maximum fine of RM20,000 and 10 years’ jail if found guilty.

Ganabaskaran stressed that the amendments may also discourage high alcohol consumption, which can eventually lead to serious health issues such as liver disease, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and obesity — conditions which he said can be costly to treat as most Malaysians are under-insured or cannot afford to maintain care for chronic diseases.

Ganabaskaran also said that while much of the country’s focus has been on drink driving, the dangers of “drug driving” should also not be forgotten.

He noted there have been numerous reports in the past of drug-related offences committed by drivers, drivers of public transport and other commercial transport.

“Such issues can be even more difficult to monitor (than drink driving),” he said.

“As roadblocks with breathalyser tests for drunk drivers are usually conducted after midnight, when bars close, some drivers on illegal drugs can be off the radar and consume these drugs during the day when more cars are on the road.”

Don’t delay heavier penalties, says anti-crime foundation

Separately, the Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation has urged the authorities not to delay legislation providing heavier penalties on future offenders.

The foundation’s senior vice-chairman Lee Lam Thye said serious attention should be paid to all cases of driving under the influence regardless of whether they cause injuries and fatalities.

Lee proposed that amendments to the Road Transport Act not only be focused on alcohol consumption but cover the abuse of drugs, medication or other substances that can cause effects while driving.

On top of this, the police must also conduct large scale operations and increase efforts to apprehend intoxicated drivers, he said.

“It is time the laws are reviewed and amended to suit present situations. Existing penalties do not seem to deter some who continue to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol,” he said in a statement today.

In Petaling Jaya today five people aged between 41 and 49 were detained for drunk driving, while four men aged 30-40 were arrested in another operation in Batu Pahat, Johor.

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