The Road Transport Department (JPJ) said its planned decision to haul traffic offenders to court over serious traffic offences committed during the Chinese New Year travel exodus is not illegal and is well within the perimeters of the law, The Sun reports.

Its director-general, Datuk Nadzri Siron, had said last week that any offenders caught for seven offences will not be issued with compound fines, but will instead be hauled off to court.

The seven offences are indiscriminate use of emergency lanes, overtaking on double lines, running the red light, using the mobile phone while driving, failure to fasten seat belts, jumping traffic queues and riding a motorcycle without a helmet.

He told the publication that apart from Road Transport Act laws, there are clauses that empower the transport minister to enable the authorities to charge traffic offenders in court. He added that it was a desperate move by the authorities to reduce the rising rate of road accidents and fatalities in the country.

“We have tried almost everything. From enforcement to advice through campaigns, but the figures continue to be alarming. When there are heavy vehicles are travelling faster than cars, youngsters riding motorcycles without helmets and people using their mobile phones to send text messages while driving, we have to act to save their lives and that of other innocent road users. All these are being initiated for the benefit and safety of the public in general,” he explained.

It was reported that some lawyers had argued that JPJ’s decision to take traffic offenders to court for compoundable offences was unlawful, stating that the move should not be enforced until laws are amended, but Nadzri disagreed with the viewpoint.

“Lawyers may have their own views on the matter, but we consulted our law experts before implementing the move. It has been accepted by the court of law and we have had no objection. Offenders have the option to defend themselves and it is the prerogative of the court to decide on the case,” he stated.

There was a significant increase in road accidents and fatalities in 2016 compared to the previous year. A total of 521,466 accidents were reported last year compared to 489,606 in 2015, and the number of fatalities also climbed, with 7,125 deaths from road accidents in 2016, up from the 6,706 recorded in 2015. Motorcyclists and pillion riders accounted for more than 62% of these fatalities.