Civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan has lauded the government's decision to amend the Road Transport Act 1987 by imposing a heavier penalty on driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
In a statement today, Syahredzan (above) said this showed the government has the political will to act, compared with the previous administration.
Citing a parliamentary reply in June 2015, he said the then home minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said drunk driving had led to a total of 1,035 accidents.
Out of the 1,035 cases, 618 of them involved fatalities.
"Despite the worrying statistics, the last time the government amended Section 44(1) of the Road Transport Act was in 1999 to impose a heavier punishment," said Syahredzan, who is also the political secretary to Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang.
"Before that, the government failed to amend the provision," he said.
Section 44(1) provides imprisonment of between three and 10 years and a fine of between RM8,000 and RM20,000 for individuals driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
"Let's hope the amendment of the Act can be an effective preventive measure to tackle the problem," he said.
However, he pointed out that a mere heavier punishment is inadequate in tackling the problem.
"I urge the authorities to step up the enforcement and surveillance, including inspection by the police and enforcement of the Road Transport Department," Syahredzan said, adding that this would ensure that drivers observe the laws and drive carefully.
Yesterday, Transport Minister Anthony Loke said the government agreed in principle to tighten existing laws on driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
He said among the provisions to be reviewed were Sections 41, 44 and 45 of the Road Transport Act 1987, which would be amended to tighten existing laws with harsher penalties.