Driving-related offences in Singapore relate to the behaviour and actions of a driver in a vehicle and are commonly described as road traffic offences. They are governed by the Road Traffic Act (RTA).

Road traffic offences are distinct from offences relating to a vehicle which come under the jurisdiction of the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Driving-related offences are taken seriously in Singapore and can lead to a fine, imprisonment or both. Plus, a driver can face a suspension or revocation of their driving licence.

Common driving-related offences in Singapore

Here are some of the most frequent driving-related and traffic offences in Singapore:

Driving without due care or reasonable consideration

Section 65 of the Road Traffic Act makes it an offence to drive a motor vehicle without due care and attention or reasonable consideration for other road users.

Dangerous or reckless driving

Driving recklessly or in a manner or at a speed which is dangerous to the public is an offence under Section 64 of the RTA.

Driving too fast and exceeding the speed limit

Both roads and vehicles are controlled by a maximum speed limit. Under Section 63 of the RTA, driving at a speed greater than that prescribed for the class of vehicle and/or the road category is an offence.

Driving without a valid licence

A driving licence formally confirms a driver’s identity, plus the entitlement to drive a vehicle. Driving without a valid licence is an offence under Section 35 of the RTA. It can apply to the driver of the car, and a person who allows their vehicle to be used by someone without the correct licence.

A driver can hold a valid driving licence, but it may not give them authority to drive that vehicle.

This offence also extends to anyone who hires or authorises a person to drive a car. They may only employ, hire to, or otherwise permit holders of a valid driving licence to use the vehicle. Any licence must be of the correct categorisation for that car.

Using a mobile phone whilst driving

For this offence to be committed, the vehicle must be moving on a road or in a public place. The device must be hand-held, and the offence includes sending or receiving oral or written messages, or using the internet, but is not limited to these examples.

Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol whilst driving

Driving or attempting to drive whilst under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or another type of intoxicating substance that results in a driver having improper control of his vehicle is an offence under Section 67 of the RTA.

Seemingly being in control of the vehicle but driving with alcohol levels above the prescribed limit is also an offence.

Illegal car racing

The law was beefed up on the offence of illegal car racing in June 2021 with more stringent penalties. The offence includes taking part in or promoting illegal car racing.

What is the process following the charge of a driving offence?

Minor offences may only result in a fine. First, the driver will receive a Notice of Traffic Offence which details the charge.

The notice will also include an ‘offer of composition’. Essentially, the fine amount and a date by which it should be paid. Paying the sum will settle the notice and avoid going to court.

If the driver contests the charge, for example, if they believe they did not exceed the legal speed limit in that location, they should not pay the fine. However, paying the fine late will incur more costs.

Going to court

If the driver’s notice does not include an offer of composition, it will contain a notice to attend court. There will be a specific date, and the offence will be heard in the Traffic Court on that day.

Following a court appearance, a guilty conviction will mean the court issues payment advice for a fine. This is usually for minor driving offences.

Serious driving offences with no offer of composition include causing injury or death and driving rashly or negligently. These are arrestable offences which means a police officer can arrest a driver at the scene of an accident or incident without a warrant.

Arrest and detention in police custody follow, and the police have 48 hours to investigate the incident, after which the driver will appear at the Criminal Mentions Court.

At this point, the driver is formally charged with the offence.

Appealing the charge

If a driver has committed a driving offence and been charged, this charge will stick – it cannot be withdrawn. A driver may, however, appeal against a charge if they want to contest it.

A driver can appeal a charge online via the Traffic e-Appeals Portal. Appeals are only viable on specific grounds, including medical emergencies, which must be supported by documentary evidence from a qualified medical professional.

The difference between RTA and LTA offences

Road Traffic Act offences relate to unsafe driving behaviour and practices. The Land Transport Authority focus on managing road usage. Some common LTA offences include driving in the bus lane during restricted hours, illegal parking, and illegal vehicle modifications.

Penalties for driving-related offences

Possible penalties include time in jail and/or a fine. It depends upon the seriousness of the offence, whether it is a first offence, plus any mitigating or aggravating circumstances that should be taken into account.

A first conviction for dangerous or reckless driving will result in a fine and a prison term of up to eight years. Expect this to double if the driver is a repeat offender.

Use of a mobile device while driving results in a fine of up to S$1,000 for a first conviction, and a prison term limited to a maximum of six months. A second or subsequent conviction will result in a fine of up to S$2,000 and a prison sentence of up to twelve months.

Suspending or revoking a driving licence

Driving offences, as well as being liable to fines and prison sentences, also accumulate demerit points under the DIPS or Driver Improvement Points System.

There is a threshold above which a driver’s licence can be suspended or revoked if they have accumulated the requisite number of demerit points.

New or probationary drivers can have their licence revoked during their probationary period if they accumulate 13 or more demerit points. Their licence is deemed invalid, so they’ll need to retake their driving tests to gain a new driving licence.

Drivers outside the probationary period are subject to different rules. A tally of 24 demerit points within 24 consecutive months with no previous suspension record will mean a driver could have their licence suspended for 12 weeks.

Drivers with previous suspension records who accumulate 12 or more demerit points within 12 consecutive months could have their driving licences suspended for up to 36 months.

If a suspension period lasts for more than twelve months, the licence is then revoked and invalid, and the driver will need to retake the driving test to be able to drive again on a new licence.

Final thoughts on driving related offences

Driving-related offences can have costly consequences in Singapore. In addition to a fine and possible prison sentence, drivers will find there is an impact on their motor insurance policy, and potentially their employment.

A driver charged with a serious driving-related offence should always seek professional legal advice.

This content was written and reviewed by a lawyer but it does not constitute legal advice. We always recommend engaging a lawyer before taking any legal action.

Frequently asked questions

How can drivers determine if they’ve been charged with a traffic offence?

The Electronic Driver Data Information & Enquiry System (EDDIES) details the notices of offences issued by the traffic police. EDDIES only lists offences that have been charged, not those still under investigation.

To log into the system, drivers must use their SingPass and either their NRIC/FIN and photocard serial number, or the foreign registered vehicle number.

What are the legal limits for alcohol when driving?

The prescribed limits are 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath and 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

The offence is absolute if the levels are exceeded and doesn’t rely on bad or poor driving behaviour. We have more information on this topic here.

What are the new penalties for promoting or participating in illegal car racing?

First-time offenders can receive a prison term of up to twelve months with a maximum fine of S$5,000. Repeat offenders can expect punishments to double this, with penalties of up to S$10,000, and a maximum jail term of up to two years.

The court can also forfeit the vehicle.

Should I hire a lawyer if I am arrested and charged with a serious driving offence?

Minor driving offences with an offer of composition shouldn’t require professional legal input; a driver can pay the fine if they don’t dispute the offence and won’t need to go to court.

However, if the driving offence is serious, then it’s always sensible to instruct a lawyer to advise on the implications of pleading guilty or claiming a trial to contest the charge. A lawyer will advise on the best option for your case.