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Bill establishing vehicular manslaughter passes in Senate

The Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2019, which will lengthen jail time and toughen fines for traffic offenses for people who kill while driving dangerously or recklessly, was unanimously passed in the Senate yesterday.

Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government is “seeking to send a strong signal” to the public, as he opened debate on the bill.

“It is important to emphasize to the general public the need, when handling a dangerous instrument like a motor vehicle, to be fully aware and conscious of every moment and every decision that you make when behind the wheel,” he said.

Opposition Senator Fred Mitchell expressed his support of the bill, noting that he hopes the bill will bring justice to families of those killed by reckless drivers.

“What we saw in the application of fines was a lack of appreciation for the seriousness of road traffic accidents,” he said.

“It was as if there was one standard [for] hitting somebody over the head and killing them and another standard for using a car, when a car is a deadly instrument.”

The Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2019, seeks to increase penalties for people convicted of killing in the course of dangerous or reckless driving that could result in prison sentences of up to 15 years for offenders.

It changes the name of the offense to vehicular manslaughter and allots new maximum prison times for various scenarios.

The bill also maintains that a person convicted of vehicular manslaughter by dangerous driving would be liable to a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Currently, the penalty for manslaughter by dangerous driving is a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $10,000, or imprisonment for a term of four years; or both.

The bill states that a person convicted of vehicular manslaughter by careless driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

The bill also provides that a person who is convicted of vehicular manslaughter by careless driving while driving without a valid license, or driving an uninsured vehicle, or allowing a passenger to ride in the vehicle without wearing a seat belt, could face up to five years in prison.

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