Reckless or dangerous driving is a serious offence in Singapore with a range of penalties and punishments. These vary according to the past record of the driver, plus the outcome of any accident or incident.
Every incident of reckless or dangerous driving is unique, but there are often some common elements; speeding may be one. Other examples being the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The different components involved determine how seriously a court views the offence.
What is the definition of reckless or dangerous driving?
Reckless or dangerous driving is when a person drives a motor vehicle on the road recklessly, at speed, or in a manner that is dangerous to other road users and the public.
The offence is contained in Section 64(1) of the Road Traffic Act (RTA).
Whether a person is driving dangerously or recklessly is assessed on the circumstances of each case. Factors include the condition of the road, the legal speed limit, the type of road, and the amount of traffic and pedestrians in the area or that could reasonably be expected to be on the road.
Some examples of dangerous driving include weaving in and out of traffic, ignoring traffic signals or speed limits, and driving against traffic flow.
The risk to other road users and pedestrians is self-evident, so this offence carries severe punishments.
Penalties for reckless or dangerous driving
Punishments for reckless or dangerous driving vary on a sliding scale, starting with fines and/or imprisonment when no one else is involved, or there has been no injury or death caused to third parties.
These punishments increase to severe penalties for causing injury or death by reckless or dangerous driving. There are rising penalty scales for harm, hurt, grievous hurt or causing death.
In cases excluding hurt, grievous hurt or death, a first-time offender can receive a prison term of up to twelve months and/or a fine of S$5,000. For repeat offenders, these punishments essentially double, so imprisonment of up to two years and/or a fine of up to S$10,000.
Serious offenders can expect a prison term of up to twelve months and/or a fine of S$2,000-S$10,000 on top of the penalty for a first or repeat offender. Serious repeat offenders will be given a prison term of up to two years and/or a fine of between S$5,000 to S$20,000 on top of the punishments for first-time or repeat offenders.
Punishments for causing hurt
If an incident of reckless or dangerous driving leads to hurt to another person, a successful prosecution can result in a range of penalties:
- First-time offenders can expect a fine of up to S$10,000 or a prison term of up to two years or both.
- Repeat offenders will receive a tariff that is double that for first-time offenders, so a fine of up to S$20,000 or imprisonment for a period of up to four years.
- Serious offenders will be awarded one of the punishments above and an additional period of up to twelve months in prison and/or a fine of between S$2,000 and S$10,000.
- Serious repeat offenders will have penalties imposed under one of the first two options and an additional prison term of up to two years, plus a fine of between S$5,000 and S$20,000.
Punishments for causing grievous hurt
Section 64 (2A) of the Road Traffic Act lists the penalties for successfully prosecuting a charge of causing grievous hurt to another person while driving a motor vehicle. These are:
- For a first-time offender, a prison term of between one and five years.
- For a repeat offender, imprisonment of between two and ten years.
- For serious offenders, imprisonment for between six and twelve months and a fine of between S$2,000 and S$10,000 in addition to any punishment above, depending on their offending status.
- For serious repeat offenders, a prison term of between twelve months and two years and a fine of S$5,000 to S$20,000 on top of any punishment for first-time or repeat offences.
Penalties for causing the death of another person by reckless or dangerous driving
The following penalties apply:
- For first-time offenders, a prison term of between two and eight years.
- For repeat offenders, a prison term of between four and fifteen years.
- For serious offenders, imprisonment for a period of twelve months to two years on top of any punishment as a first-time or repeat offender.
- For serious repeat offenders, imprisonment for between two and four years in addition to the sentence the court awards for the first time or repeat offence.
Driver culpability in sentencing
Driver fault plays a big part in the court’s determination of an appropriate sentence. Deliberate actions like speeding, drink driving, or driving whilst using a mobile phone are all examples of high culpability. The offender’s reasons for driving dangerously or recklessly are also relevant.
If the driving is deliberate or utterly reckless regarding the consequences, this is evidence of high culpability. Compare this with a driver who drove dangerously in an emergency to avoid an accident.
What happens to an offender’s driving licence?
In addition to awarding a custodial sentence and a fine depending on the severity of the accident or incident, the court also has the power to disqualify the offender from driving for a specific period under Section 64(2D).
A licence disqualification may not matter if the offender is in prison, but disqualification periods can be long and exceed a prison sentence.
A first-time or repeat offender causing the death of another can expect to be disqualified from driving for ten years; this period could exceed a prison sentence for causing the death of another by dangerous or reckless driving.
Other periods of licence disqualification include:
- For serious offenders who have received a general punishment – two years.
- For serious repeat offenders under general punishment with only one previous conviction – five years.
- For serious offenders who cause hurt – two years.
- For serious repeat offenders who cause hurt and have been convicted of one offence previously – five years.
- For first-time or repeat offenders who cause grievous hurt – eight years.
- For serious offenders who cause grievous hurt – ten years.
- A serious repeat offender who causes grievous hurt and has a prior conviction – thirteen years.
- Twelve years for a serious offender who caused the death of another.
- Fifteen years for a serious repeat offender who has previously been convicted of an offence.
What is a serious offender?
When awarding punishments after a reckless or dangerous driving conviction, the court considers whether the driver is a first, repeat or serious offender. First or repeat offences are self-explanatory, but what is a serious offender?
Section 64(8) of the Road Traffic Act 1961 defines a serious offender as someone convicted of dangerous driving and one of the following:
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or drink under Section 67; or
- Failing to provide a breath or blood specimen under Section 70(4).
To be a serious offender, the person must have been convicted at an earlier time of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, being in charge of a motor vehicle when under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Section 68), or failing to provide a blood or breath sample.
Final thoughts on reckless and dangerous driving
Causing death by reckless or dangerous driving is a serious offence in Singapore. It can have profound consequences on the victim and convicted driver.
Punishments are severe, and a conviction for this offence will impact motor insurance policies in the future as well as some employment scenarios.
Drivers charged with this offence, plus the victims, should take professional legal advice to best protect their position regardless of which side of the courtroom they stand in.
Frequently asked questions
How does speeding relate to reckless or dangerous driving offences?
Speeding offences are not included under the Registration of Criminals Act, so they don’t create a criminal record. However, causing death by reckless or dangerous driving while speeding is a criminal offence that will appear on the record.
It requires five crime-free years before a record is spent, meaning the slate is wiped clean.
Is reckless or dangerous driving an arrestable offence?
Reckless or dangerous driving is an arrestable offence under Section 64(5) of the Road Traffic Act 1964. This means a suspect can be arrested on the spot or in a different location without a warrant.
Can a driver be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence for life?
Under Section 64(2E), the court has the power to order the disqualification of a driver for life if the convicted driver is a serious repeat offender and has previously been convicted on at least two previous occasions for specific offences.
This power is not dependent on the harm or injury the offender has caused; it can include scenarios where there is death from reckless or dangerous driving, grievous hurt, or just hurt.
Are there other penalties for dangerous or reckless driving?
People who participate in or promote illegal car racing face enhanced punishments. First-time offenders should expect prison for up to one year and a fine of up to S$5,000. Repeat offenders will be jailed for up to two years and fined up to S$10,000.