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OTHER PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE ROAD TRAFFIC ACT

AMENDMENT:Under one of the Road Traffic Act amendments, it will be illegal for drivers to hold and operate any form of mobile communication device while driving. But the new law does not include mounted or wearable devices. PHOTO: STOMP

Yesterday, Members of Parliament had questions on some of the Road Traffic Act amendments after Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli elaborated on them.

1 It is illegal to hold and operate any functions of mobile phones and tablet devices while driving. Previously, this was restricted to only mobile phones.

Aljunied MP Pritam Singh and Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam pointed out that the change does not include mounted and wearable devices, which could prove to be a distraction as well.

Mr Masagos said it is "neither possible nor practical for the law to specify all the actions, and even devices, that could potentially distract the driver".

He added that the Government's approach is consistent with that of other jurisdictions, such as Hong Kong.

MPs Tin Pei Ling and Gan Thiam Poh asked for a stiffer penalty for the offence, but Mr Masagos said the current penalties are sufficient.

A motorist who commits this offence will be fined $200 and given 12 demerit points. If charged in court, he can face a fine of up to $1,000, and a jail term of not more than six months.

The penalty for repeat offenders is doubled.

2 Work Pass holders who drive as part of their job have to obtain a local driving licence within six months from the date of issue of their Work Pass.

Previously, they had a year to pass the Basic Theory Test.

Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan asked if a foreign driving licence holder who does not work as a driver is allowed to drive a pickup.

Mr Masagos said the law will apply to all work pass holders, whether they drive full time, or are asked to ferry people and goods on an ad-hoc basis.

"For example, a warehouse assistant who may have to deliver goods at times as part of his job would still be required to obtain a local licence," he said.

3 The Traffic Police will presume that a vehicle owner was responsible for a traffic offence if he does not provide the driver's particulars.

The owner can rebut the presumption if he can prove he did not do it.

According to residents' feedback, it sometimes takes the Traffic Police several weeks to issue a summons, said Mr Lim. This makes it difficult for the vehicle owner to recall which driver flouted the rules.

Mr Masagos assured Mr Lim that the Traffic Police will issue the summons as soon as an offence is detected. Installing close to 260 additional digital red light and speed cameras by the first half of next year will also speed up the process.

But he emphasised that it is ultimately the vehicle owners' duty to keep track of those who drive their vehicles.

"A warehouse assistant who may have to deliver goods at times as part of his job would still be required to obtain a local licence."

- Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli