By Isanella Patoir
In an effort to reduce road fatalities and accidents caused by drunk driving, the government has revealed several proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, Cap. 51:02 which will see harsher penalties and fines for persons convicted.
If amended, drunk drivers can face increased jail time, permanent revocation of their driver’s license, “motor manslaughter” and causing grievous bodily harm charges.
Police ranks will also be required to ensure the breathalyser equipment are certified and produce accurate readings.
“In response to the large number of motor vehicular accidents, inclusive of those resulting in fatalities on our public roadways, specifically caused by an unacceptable high incidence of drunken driving, the Government of Guyana has made a decision to take a series of measures to confront this serious problem,” Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, said in a press release on Saturday.
The draft Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2022 was agreed to during a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.
A draft of the legislation seeks to amend the Principal Act by inserting a new section 35A, which states that a person can be found guilty of motor manslaughter, where that person causes the death of another person while driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a drug.
This offence is an indictable one and the penalty is a term of imprisonment of not less than ten years. Where the person has caused grievous bodily harm to another person, while driving under the influence, the penalty is a term of imprisonment of not less than five years.
This new section also provides that where the jury or magistrate is not satisfied that the person’s driving was the cause of the death or the grievous bodily harm, but is satisfied that the person is guilty of driving under the influence, the person can be convicted.
It is further proposed that a person convicted under this section shall be disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence for three years. If the person is convicted again for a similar offence, the person shall be permanently disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence.
The amendments will also see a person’s license being temporarily suspended pending the outcome of the case.
The person’s license may also be surrendered to the court before the person is charged. Any person who fails to surrender the licence, shall be guilty of an offence of which the penalty is a fine of $100,000 or imprisonment for three months.
Currently, the penalty for driving under the influence and losing control of the vehicle, is a fine ranging from $30,000 to $60,000 or imprisonment for 12 months and in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, there is a fine ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 and imprisonment.
It is now proposed that the fines will be increased to not less than $200,000 for first-time offenders and $300,000 for second-time offenders.
Persons can also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence for 12 months. Where the person is convicted for two consecutive offences, the person shall be disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence for 24 months, and where there is a third conviction, the person shall be permanently disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence.
Meanwhile, the current penalty for persons found driving above the prescribed alcohol limit is $7,500; the proposal is for it to be increased to $200,000 and the disqualification of licence where the person is charged with two consecutive offences from 12 months to 24 months.
As a result of this amendment, the prescribed alcohol limit now means breath alcohol concentration, 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath or blood alcohol concentration, 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.
The draft bill can be accessed on the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs website www.mola.gov.gy and submissions and recommendations are hereby invited within 21 days from the date hereof to [email protected]
Additionally, these draft Bills will be circulated to relevant national stakeholder organisations for their submissions and recommendations within a similar timeframe.