In Malaysia, drunk driving is still a severe problem. Every year, a large number of people are killed as a result of drunk drivers. Last year, the administration held numerous meetings with various organisations and performed several surveys, all of which showed widespread support for tighter drink-driving regulations. These results led to a review of the law and the introduction of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act of 2020 to improve road safety. The Act came into effect on 23 October 2020.
Alcohol has been proven to impair functions including as tracking, distance and speed perception, and reaction times in response to changes in road conditions. Furthermore, alcohol has disinhibition effects on the cerebral cortex of the brain, which can lead to aggressive and risk-taking behaviour in some people. Alcohol use detected among fatally injured drivers was 23.3% followed by drugs (11%).
In Malaysia, there are a few offences relating to drunk driving.
- Section 44(1) states that anyone who causes the death of another person while driving a vehicle on a road or in a public place while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs to the point where the person is incapable of maintaining proper control of the vehicle, or who has so much alcohol in their body that the concentration of it in their breath, blood, or urine exceeds the prescribed limit, is guilty of a crime.
- Section 44(1A) makes it causing injury to another person while driving a vehicle on a road or other public place while under the influence of intoxicating liquor to the point where the person is unable to maintain proper control of the vehicle, or when the concentration of alcohol in their breath, blood, or urine exceeds the prescribed limits. To prove that the driver was incapable of having proper control over the vehicle, the prosecution need not prove the driver’s alcohol concentration, although it would be helpful. For example, such as uttering or inability to walk straight, can be presented to show that the driver was incapable of effectively handling the car.
- Section 45A creates driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle or being in charge of a motor vehicle on the road or in another public location if their blood, breath, or urine alcohol concentration exceeds the prescribed limits is an offence. This is true regardless of any other person’s injuries or death. The only test is to see if the person’s blood alcohol level is above the legal limit. The person can be convicted even though they are seemingly capable of controlling the vehicle.
- Section 45 makes it an offence to be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or public place whilst being unfit to drive the vehicle because they are under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs to the extent that they are incapable of properly controlling the vehicle. Take note that the person does not need to be driving the vehicle. If someone can prove that at the material time there was no likelihood of them driving the vehicle whilst they were unfit to do so and that they didn’t drive the vehicle between becoming unfit to drive and being arrested, they will not be found to be in charge of the vehicle for the purposes of this section. An example would be someone who drives to a parking lot whilst 100% sober, then starts drinking, but gives the car keys to someone else with the instruction to not return the keys until the person is 100% sober again. Such a person will have a defence against a charge under section 45(1).
The 2020 amendments provide for much stricter penalties for section 44 and 45 offences.
- Section 44 (1) – causing death penalties
A person causing the death of another person whilst driving under the influence shall, if convicted, be punished to imprisonment for at least ten years and not more than 15 years, and a fine of between RM50,000 and RM100,000. The driver shall be disqualified to hold a driver’s licence for at least ten years.
- Section 44(1A) – causing injury penalties
If convicted of causing injury whilst under the influence, the punishment is a minimum of 7 years imprisonment and not more than ten years imprisonment, and a fine of at least RM30,000 and not more than RM50,000. The driver shall be disqualified to hold a driver’s licence for at least seven years.
- Section 45A – exceeding the prescribed limit penalties
A person convicted of driving or attempting to drive whilst their alcohol level exceeds the prescribed limit, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a maximum of 2 years and a fine of at least RM10,000 and not more than RM30,000. Upon conviction, the driver shall be disqualified from holding a driver’s licence for at least two years.
- Section 45 – being in charge penalties
Upon conviction, the person shall be fined to at least RM1000 and not more than RM5000 and be liable to possible imprisonment for a maximum of 2 years. The driver shall be disqualified to hold a driver’s licence for at least two years.
The new prescribed limits introduced by the amendments are as follows:
- 22 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath
- 50 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
- 67 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine
Efforts to prevent mortality connected to alcohol addiction should be strengthened under current legislation. Middle-aged and young drivers who drive alone should be questioned of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. the government policy of enact legislation and enforcement strategy to reduce drunk driving offences can be viewed as a public health measure improving traffic safety thus provided large health gains in developing nations. The effectiveness of government policy can be achieved if law enforcement agencies can make a sustained effort and states enact stricter laws for drunk driving offences. As a result, in order to overcome drunk driving, it is fundamental that government legislation and enforcement measures be decisive and effective in order to prevent drunk driving incidents from occurring in the first place.
Mohamed, Norlen & Ameer Batcha, Wahida & Abdullah, Kharmila & Mohd Yusoff, Muhammad Fadhli & Rahim, Sharifah & Mahmood, Mohd Shah. (2012). Alcohol and Drug Use Among Fatally Injured Drivers in Urban Area of Kuala Lumpur Research.