Transport Minister Dr Wee Ka Siong said the government viewed the recent spate of accidents involving drunk drivers very seriously and is considering mandatory jail sentences for those caught driving under the influence of alcohol.
He was reported to have said “If we introduce mandatory prison time, that might give some awareness to those who choose to drive under the influence. I feel it is time to bring justice to the victims killed by drunk drivers. Action must be taken.”
But jailing drunk drivers that have caused injury or death is only half the story if injured victims or families of those killed are not compensated. All motor insurance policies do not cover for accidents if vehicles are driven under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Insurance companies are diligent in spotting any breach in their terms and conditions and will do their utmost not to pay out claims for third party injuries or death. For example, cover can be repudiated if the driver unwittingly admitted liability or offer any settlement or payment.
Insurance companies automatically repudiate cover when drivers were found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and it would be pointless to sue if the driver has no money or asset to liquidate to pay for compensation.
Even if the driver has the means to pay, it will take many years from the date of filing a civil suit to the day compensation is awarded by the court. It would be better to have the fines raised substantially to a fixed sum for causing death or grievous injury.
This will allow the victims or families some compensation in advance to tide over the most difficult period without denying their rights to claim for the full amount. Otherwise, the victims or their families could suffer more than the drivers in jail.
Also, drivers are more likely to remember a big fine, such as RM100,000, for causing death or grievous injury in drink driving. A longer jail sentence is brushed aside, just as death sentence or life imprisonment had not deterred people from trafficking in drugs.
Currently, intoxicated drivers are charged under Section 41 of the Road Transport Act 1987 for reckless driving leading to death, with the maximum penalty being imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine of up to RM20,000.
If guilty drivers are slapped with a RM100,000 fine for causing death or grievous injury, RM80,000 can be paid to the victim or family as advance compensation. This can alleviate their suffering as waiting for the court to award compensation, if any, can take many years.
The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader CY Ming from Ampang.