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Bill will introduce stiffer penalties for traffic deaths

An amendment to the Road Traffic Act will impose a 15-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of killing in the course of dangerous or reckless driving. 

Minister of Transport and Local Government Renward Wells tabled the Road Traffic Amendment (No. 2) Bill, 2019, in the House of Assembly yesterday.

A new bill to increase penalties for people convicted of killing in the course of dangerous or reckless driving could result in prison sentences of up to 15 years for offenders. 

There have been a number of traffic fatalities across the country over the past few years, and the issue has raised public concern over the need for stiffer penalties for drivers responsible for others’ deaths.

The point of the bill is to “remove the perception that the road death offense of killing in the course of reckless or dangerous driving is in a different and less important family to other killings”.

The bill changes the name of the offense to “vehicular manslaughter” and allots new maximum prison times for various scenarios.

It defines vehicular manslaughter by reckless driving as when a person “causes the death of another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road or in a public place recklessly”. Any person found guilty of the offense would be liable to imprisonment for up to 15 years.

A person would be considered to be driving recklessly if he or she indicates “a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of a person using the road” and if it “would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way that would create an obvious and serious risk of harm”.

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

A person would be considered to be guilty of dangerous driving if his or her driving “falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver” and if it “would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way that would be dangerous”.

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. 

A person would be considered to be driving under the influence if at the time he or she is driving, he or she is unfit to drive or be in charge of a vehicle as a result of consuming a drug or alcohol “to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control or to be in charge of a motor vehicle”.

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.

The House next meets on January 29, 2020.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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