PETALING JAYA: Drivers cannot claim ignorance as an excuse if they are charged under the new Road Transport (Amendment) Act 2020 for driving under the influence (DUI), say rights groups.
Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said although there were some reservations as to the severity of punishment under the new law, drivers were bound by them.
“Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. The public must be reminded to adhere to the law and cannot break it whether the punishment is excessive or lenient, ” he said yesterday.
Alliance for Safe Community chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said recent reports of drivers punished under the new law served as a reminder not to drive when intoxicated.
“It is a reminder for all that they have to change their ways and be more disciplined on the road, ” he said.
Lee added that strict enforcement of the law was crucial if it was to serve as a deterrent and suggested that social media be used to create better awareness on the changes in the law.
“Nowadays, many turn to social media for news and it can be used to create awareness on the new law, ” he said.
Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism vice-president Tan Hoe Chieow said ignorance of the new law was an unacceptable excuse.
“There is a lot of media coverage on the issue before the law was passed by both Houses of Parliament. Claiming to be unaware is not a good excuse, ” he said.
Tan added that authorities must make sure the law was obeyed, citing China as an example where drivers were afraid to drink and drive for fear of severe punishment.
Malaysian Grab Drivers Association president Arif Asyraf Ali described the new law as fair as it was meant to keep the roads safer for everyone.
“Previously, drunk drivers could get off the hook by just paying fines, which they could afford.
“They can’t do that now under the new law, which carries heftier fines and jail sentences, ” he said.
Arif said motorists could opt to use e-hailing services instead of driving.
“Using e-hailing is cheaper and safer compared to the punishment if caught for drink-driving, ” he said.
He said some e-hailing companies allowed customers to book drivers if they intended to go out drinking.
Since amendments to the Road Transport Act came into force on Oct 23, nine motorists in Johor and a motorcyclist in Penang have been charged.
Under Section 45A(1) of the Act, those guilty of DUI face a jail term of not more than two years, a fine ranging from RM10,000 to RM30,000, and revocation of their driving licence for two years or more.
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