Democrats oppose driving licence fines

Democrats oppose driving licence fines

Spokesman urges review of fines, jail

The government's proposal for a 5,000% rise in fines for licence offences has drawn heavy opposition from social media, the Democrat Party and a Supreme Court justice. (File photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
The government's proposal for a 5,000% rise in fines for licence offences has drawn heavy opposition from social media, the Democrat Party and a Supreme Court justice. (File photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The Democrat Party has called for a revision of a proposed road safety measure that would see a substantial hike in fines and longer jail terms imposed on motorists who commit licence-related offences.

The measure forms part of a new bill, which would combine the Vehicle Act and Land Transport Act. The legislation is being deliberated by the National Legislative Assembly.

Democrat Party deputy spokesman Rames Rattanachaweng said Thursday the government should review the proposed measure.

Under the DLT's latest proposal, the maximum fine for driving without a licence would be increased 50-fold to 50,000 baht and the maximum jail term from one to three months.

Driving with an invalid licence or when the licence has been seized or withdrawn by authorities would be hiked to a maximum 50,000 baht from the current 2,000 baht, with the added option of a three-month jail term.

Mr Rames said it must be ascertained if road accidents were connected to the lack of driver licences or flaws in driving discipline, otherwise, the proposed measure would only let corrupt law enforcement officers "capitalise" on the issue.

He said a traffic court could be established so judges can determine suitable fines in each case.

"Before any laws are rolled out, the government should take into account their effects on people and whether it is at all sensible," said Mr Rames.

Senior justice of the Supreme Court Sriumporn Salikup said not carrying a driver's licence is not a serious offence. It only inconveniences police who cannot seize licences from offenders.

He said nothing can change the fact that drivers who fail to produce a licence at the request of police had gone through and passed traffic tests before they obtained a licence.

The licence issue is irrelevant to the proposed hike in fines and jail terms, he said, adding the penalties should not be increased excessively.

As for drivers who have no licence, Mr Sriumporn agreed that the punishment should be harsher as they may be untrained and unable to control vehicles effectively, posing a danger to other motorists and people.

Mr Sriumporn said questions must be raised as to whether heavier jail terms or fines would help in preventing traffic accidents.

Stiffer punishments may cause violators to find ways to escape penalties, including bribing law enforcement officers.

"Excessive penalties do not always prevent or thwart offences. On the contrary, they might push the drivers to flee the scene after they run their car over people to avoid punishment," said Mr Sriumporn. "This is a double-edged sword," he said.

Pirom Polwiset, secretary to the Sam Mitr political group known to have close ties to a pro-regime party, said his group disagreed with the proposed increases. The group has been discussing the proposed measure with people in the Northeast. Most rejected the idea, he noted.

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