Reckless or Dangerous Driving in Singapore

Reckless or Dangerous Driving in Singapore

Introduction

There is a reason why traffic laws and regulations exist. These rules exist to ensure pedestrian safety, protect fellow motorists, and maintain local peace and order. Despite our best efforts, mishaps can occasionally occur. The amount of traffic violations in Singapore has consistently been high. To dissuade irresponsible driving, traffic laws are vigorously enforced, and breaches typically result in heavy penalties.

Reckless or Dangerous Driving in Singapore

One of such traffic offences is reckless or dangerous driving. As mentioned under section 64(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1961, reckless or dangerous driving can attract severe punishments in specific circumstances. This offence is committed when a person drives a motor vehicle on a road recklessly, or at a speed or in a manner that is dangerous to the public, taking into account all of the circumstances of the case, including the nature, condition, and use of the road, and the amount of traffic that is actually on the road at the time, or that could reasonably be expected to be on the road. This implies that exceeding the speed limit and putting other people’s lives in danger is considered reckless driving.

A Serious Offender

The offence of reckless or dangerous driving can attract a wide variety of punishments depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. Before getting into the penalties, one needs to understand what a serious offender means. According to section 64(8), a serious offender is an offender who is convicted of an offence of:

a) Driving while under influence of drink or drugs under section 67; or
b) Failing to provide a specimen of breath or blood under section 70(4)

In relation to the offender’s driving that is an offence under section 64(1). A serious repeat offender is someone who commits the above and has once been convicted of a specified offence. A specified offence is an offence of either:

a) Driving while under influence of drink or drugs under section 67
b) Being in charge of a motor vehicle when under influence of drink or drugs under section 68
c) Failing to provide a specimen of breath or blood under section 70(4)

Punishments for Causing Death of Another

If the offender causes the death of another person while driving a motor vehicle, the offender will face the following penalties if convicted:

1) For first time offenders – imprisonment for a period between 2 to 8 years.
2) For repeat offenders – imprisonment for a period between 4 to 15 years.
3) For serious offenders – imprisonment for a period of 1 to 2 years in addition to any punishment for the first time or repeat offenders.
4) For serious repeat offenders – imprisonment for a period of 2 to 4 years in addition to any punishment for the first time or repeat offenders.

Punishments for Causing Grievous Hurt

If the offender causes grievous hurt to another person while driving a motor vehicle, according to section 64(2A), the offender will be punished as follows if convicted:

1) For first time offenders – Imprisonment for a period between 1 to 5 years.
2) For repeat offenders – Imprisonment for a period between 2 to 10 years.
3) For serious offenders – Imprisonment for a period between 6 to 12 months and a fine of $2,000 to $10,000 in addition to any punishment for the first time or repeat offenders.
4) For serious repeat offenders – Imprisonment for a period between 1 to 2 years and a fine of $5,000 to $20,000 in addition to any punishment for the first time or repeat offenders.

Punishments for Causing Hurt

If the offender causes hurt to another person while driving a motor vehicle, according to section 64(2B), the offender will be punished as follows if convicted:

1) For first time offenders – A fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment for a period of up to 2 years or both.
2) For repeat offenders – A fine of up to $20,000 or imprisonment for a period of up to 4 years or both.
3) For serious offenders – Imprisonment for a period of up to 12 months or a fine of $2,000 to $10,000 or both in addition to any punishment for the first time or repeat offenders.
4) For serious repeat offenders – Imprisonment for a period of up to 2 years and a fine of $5,000 to $20,000 in addition to any punishment for the first time or repeat offenders.

General Punishments for Reckless or Dangerous Driving

In any other cases excluding causing hurt, grievous hurt and death, the offender will be liable to the following punishments if convicted according to section 64(2C):

1) For first time offenders – Imprisonment for a period of up to 12 months or a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
2) For repeat offenders – Imprisonment for a period of up to 2 years or a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
3) For serious offenders – Imprisonment for a period of up to 12 months or a fine between $2,000 to $10,000 or both in addition to any punishment for the first time or repeat offenders.
4) For serious repeat offenders – Imprisonment for a period of up to 2 years and a fine between $5,000 to $20,000 in addition to any punishments for the first time or repeat offenders.

Disqualification from Holding or Obtaining a Driver’s License

Section 64(2D) states that while convicting an offender for reckless or dangerous driving, the court may also order that the offender be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s license, unless for special reasons it thinks fit to order otherwise or not order, for a disqualification period as follows:

1) For first time or repeat offenders who caused the death of another – 10 years
2) For a serious offender who caused the death of another – 12 years
3) For serious repeat offender who caused the death of another and has been convicted once of a specified offence – 15 years
4) For first time or repeat offenders who caused grievous hurt – 8 years
5) For serious offenders who caused grievous hurt – 10 years
6) For serious repeat offender who caused grievous hurt and has been convicted only once of a specified offence – 13 years
7) For serious offenders who caused hurt – 2 years
8) For serious repeat offender who caused hurt and has been convicted only once of a specified offence – 5 years
9) For serious offenders under general punishment – 2 years
10) For serious repeat offender under general punishment and who has been convicted only once of a specified offence – 5 years

Section 64(2E) states that the court might order the disqualification of the offender from holding or obtaining a driver’s license for life starting on the day of the offender’s conviction if the offender is a serious repeat offender and has been convicted on 2 or more earlier occasions of any specified offence. This is applicable for all the scenarios including causing death, grievous hurt, hurt, or any other instances.

Arrestable Offence

An arrestable offence is an offence for which the police may arrest a suspect without a warrant. All kinds of reckless or dangerous driving are arrestable offences as mentioned under section 64(5) of the Road Traffic Act 1961.

Cases concerning Reckless or Dangerous Driving

1) Kwan Weiguang v Public Prosecutor [2022] SGHC 121

The appellant was driving his motor taxi along Ayer Rajah Expressway toward Marina Coastal Expressway on December 16, 2020. Lo was the name of the other party involved. The appellant noticed Lo driving slowly ahead of him and proceeded to pass him in lanes two of three on Keppel Road. The appellant spotted Lo driving behind him on Keppel Road, high-beaming his lights at him. The appellant tapped his brakes in response. Lo then moved to lane three of three and drove on the left side of the appellant. After that, the appellant moved into lane three of three and continued driving ahead of Lo. When Lo attempted to escape the appellant by changing lanes, the appellant countered by switching to the same lane and driving ahead of Lo. This occurred four times in all, with each event lasting 10 seconds. While driving ahead of Lo on the final occasion, the appellant hit his brakes, turned on his hazard lights, and exited his cab to confront Lo physically. Following the incident, the appellant returned to his motor taxi and accelerated to leave. When Lo’s car unexpectedly arrived in front of the appellant’s vehicle, an accident occurred. While the appellant called the police, Lo drove away. Both vehicles were scratched, but neither driver nor passenger was hurt. A fine of $1,600 and a disqualification order for a period of 15 months were imposed on the appellant by the court. The appellant only appealed against the 15-month disqualification order and paid the fine. Thus, the crux of the appeal was whether the disqualification order period was manifestly excessive. After going through all the circumstances of the case, the appeal was allowed by the court and the disqualification order was reduced from 15 to 12 months.

2) Wu Zhi Yong v Public Prosecutor [2021] SGHC 261

Wu, a 26-year-old Singaporean man, was driving a motor vehicle at the time of the offences. When he saw a police roadblock along Crawford Street, he pulled over approximately 50 metres before the “Police Stop” sign and did a three-point turn to try to go around it. Wu then drove for at least 140 metres against the flow of traffic. The on-duty officers pursued him and ultimately caught up with him. A preliminary breath test was taken, and Wu was detained on the spot after failing it. Wu was charged with one offence of drink driving under section 67(2) and one count of reckless driving under section 64(2C) as a result of this. On October 30, 2020, Wu pled guilty to both charges. He was sentenced to 17 days in prison for each of the crimes and was barred from holding or getting any type of driver’s licence for a term of 42 months. Wu appealed against this decision on the grounds that it was manifestly excessive. After reviewing the circumstances, the court determined that the District Judge’s sentence of 17 days in jail and a 42-month disqualification order for each of the offences, both of which were to run concurrently, was not manifestly excessive. The court dismissed the appeal.

3) Lim Hong Eng v Public Prosecutor [2009] 3 SLR(R) 682; [2009] SGHC 92

The appellant was the driver of a car that ran a red light at an intersection, causing an accident with a motorbike. The rider received a complex fracture to his left leg, and his pillion died as a result of her injuries. Following that, the appellant was charged with one count of causing death by dangerous driving, punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, and one count of causing grievous hurt by doing a rash act, punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or a fine of up to $1,000, or both. For the first charge, the district judge convicted the appellant and sentenced her to 18 months in prison, as well as disqualifying her from holding or obtaining a driving licence for all classes of vehicles for ten years beginning on the date of her release from prison, and sentenced her to six months in prison for the second charge. The appellant filed an appeal against her conviction and sentence, claiming that the district judge erred by failing to give due credit to the appellant’s consistent evidence that she was unaware that the traffic light was not in her favour and by concluding that the appellant intentionally drove in a dangerous manner. In its submissions, the Prosecution stated that if the appellant had not acted rashly, the second charge, causing grievous hurt by doing a rash act, should be amended to dangerous driving simpliciter under section 64(1) of the Road Traffic Act, which was an offence punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, a fine of up to $3,000, or both. The court rejected her appeal regarding her conviction for dangerous driving for the first charge, but allowed her appeal on sentence and reduced her term to one day in jail. Concerning the second charge, the court changed it from causing grievous hurt by doing a rash act to dangerous driving and convicted the appellant accordingly. In default of payment, the punishment was reduced to a $2,000 fine and two months in prison.

4) Public Prosecutor v Kevin Gregory Rajan [2021] SGDC 234

In November 2020, while driving a car down the Lornie Road slip road onto Thomson Road L/P 18, the accused drove recklessly by making a sudden lane change from lane 3 of Lornie Road, which has 5 lanes, toward the MacRitchie Viaduct, cutting through the chevron marking into lane 5. As a consequence of this, the accused encroached into the travel path of the victim, who was coming from the rear on lane 5, resulting in a collision. The victim was injured as a result of the collision. His right shoulder was tender and swollen, and he had a limited range of motion. His right shoulder, wrists, right knee, and right foot also had abrasions. He was granted 14 days of medical leave from November 9 to November 22, 2020. The accused’s automobile was scratched on the left rear bumper, while the victim’s motorcycle was scratched on the right side. The court penalized the accused $7,500, sentenced him to one month in prison, and barred him from holding or getting any type of driver’s licence for 18 months. The accused appealed against this decision. The appeal was dismissed by the court.

5) Public Prosecutor v Koh Thiam Huat [2017] 4 SLR 1099; [2017] SGHC 123

The accused was driving his truck when he arrived at a signalised traffic intersection and failed to obey the red light signal. This resulted in a collision with the victim, who was then crossing the signalised traffic intersection from the accused’s right to left on a green man signal. The accused admitted that he was following a white sedan car in front of him and did not notice the victim until she was about an arm’s length away. As a result of the collision, the victim had several injuries, including traumatic head injury characteristics such as a comminuted undisplaced fracture of the skull vault in the left parieto-temporal area extending to the temporal bone. She was admitted to the hospital for seven days and awarded hospitalisation leave for a total of 42 days. In a District Court, the accused pled guilty to a single charge of reckless driving under section 64(1) of the Road Traffic Act. The district judge sentenced the accused to a $3,000 fine in default, 15 days in jail, and an 11-month ban from holding or getting any type of driver’s licence. The Public Prosecutor filed an appeal against the District Judge’s sentencing decision. The court allowed the appeal. In the circumstances, the court was satisfied that the District Judge’s sentence was manifestly inadequate. For both specific and general deterrence, a clear deterrent penalty in the form of a custodial sentence and a lengthier period of disqualification was required. As a result, the court sentenced him to one week in jail. It also extended the disqualification period to 18 months and ordered that the fine be refunded to the accused.