Harsher penalties for drink and reckless driving

Thimphu’s traffic has worsened to the point that traffic jams are a regular occurrence during rush hours. Given the rising number of vehicles plying on the roads today, accidents along with traffic offences have become  frequent.

With the increasing violation of the traffic regulations, the need to review the Road Safety and Transport (RST) Act has been a long time coming. A new RST Bill 2017, which has been drafted, will soon replace the Act of 1999.

The draft Bill which is now available on the information and communications ministry’s website is open to public feedback.

Under the draft Bill, major focus has been made on the institutional set up and mandates including clear roles of the agencies concerned.

A new chapter on alcohol, narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances is also proposed in the new Bill. Under the chapter, it is stated that a person shall not drive, operate or ride a motor vehicle or a machine if the level of alcohol or narcotic drugs in the blood exceeds 0.08 grammes per 100 millilitres. Also if a driver holds a license issued less than three years ago, or if he/she is driving a taxi, tourist vehicle, medium or heavy vehicle, with any concentration of alcohol or narcotic drugs in the blood, he/she cannot continue to drive. The vehicle will also be held and the driving license seized.

Under offences and penalties, the new Bill states that any person who drives carelessly and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, or who passes when there is a line in his lane indicating a restriction, shall be guilty of reckless driving.

A person convicted of reckless driving will be guilty of an offence equalling a petty misdemeanour or a fine of not more than Nu 50,000 or both.

According to the new Bill, a person driving recklessly under the influence of alcohol or drugs who causes the death of another person or the infliction of grievous bodily harm shall be guilty of culpable driving. The offence of culpable driving shall be a misdemeanour or a fine of not more than Nu 100,000 or both.

A driver of a motor vehicle, who is involved in a road crash with another vehicle, property, human being or animal, and knowingly exits the scene without identifying him/her shall be guilty of an offence of hit and run.

The offence will be a petty misdemeanour or a fine of not more than the cost of the damaged property or both.

Meanwhile, any driver, operator or bicycle rider found driving, operating or riding beyond the speed limit as prescribed by the Act and rules and regulations shall be guilty of an offence and shall be imposed with a fine of Nu 5,000.

If an owner fails to insure a motor vehicle with any insurer, comprehensive or third party, the authority or an authorised officer shall not allow the vehicle to be driven unless a document of insurance is submitted to the authority as evidence. A person failing to produce a valid certificate of insurance on demand by the authorised person shall be liable for a penalty prescribed in the regulations.

Officials from the ministry said that the intent of this bill is to provide a platform for subordinate legislation to swiftly cover all the transport aspects except aviation. It is also intended to segregate the roles and responsibilities of the agencies involved to appropriately and suitably implement the provisions relating to transport.

Representatives from the works and human settlement ministry, information and communications ministry, economic affairs ministry, the Royal Bhutan Police, National Environment Commission, Bhutan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Bhutan Insurance Limited, Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan, Thimphu and Phuentsholing Thromde were involved in the task force for formulating the draft Bill.

Upon formulation of first draft, the stakeholders comprising of bus operators/owners, taxi representatives, emission companies, driving institutes were consulted.

The official added that the draft Bill was presented to agencies under the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tourism Council, Industries Associations and banks yesterday. Also meetings will be held with truckers and industrialists in Nganglam and Phuentsholing soon.

Younten Tshedup