The proposed amendments to Sections 41 to 45 of the Road Transport Act, which will allow for harsher penalties against those found to be driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, will also see the lowering of permissible alcohol levels as detected through breathalyser, urine and blood tests, The Star reports.

Transport minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong said that these will be brought in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, which is 22 micrograms of alcohol in 100 ml of breath, 50 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood or 67 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of urine.

Currently, the levels adopted by the country stands at 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 ml of breath, 80 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood or 107 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of urine.

The proposed amendments will see prison sentences for those causing death or injury due to drink driving being increased from 10 to 15 years, while the maximum fine will be raised from RM20,000 to RM100,000. Wee said the stiffer penalties that are being proposed will also cover offences such as driving under the influence of drugs as well as reckless driving.

From 2018 to the first half of this year, there were 29 deaths and 41 injuries due to road accidents involving drunk drivers. This year alone, there were 22 such accidents, resulting in nine deaths and 13 injuries.

In related news, lawmakers and safety advocates say that while the harsher penalties for drink-driving are laudable, other aspects of the issue should also be looked into. Among these are the inclusion of an effective compensation system for the family of a victim.

According to Ledang MP Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, the government should consider the welfare of victims and their families from losses suffered after an accident, and come up with a quantum that would help protect the future of the victim’s family. “The loss of income, trauma and the future of their children must be considered,” he said.

This was echoed by National Road Safety Council member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, who said that there should be a system where victims or their families were compensated in the event of death or permanent injury after a drink-driving accident. “The victims’ families should be entitled to medical assistance and those who are found guilty must be held responsible and take care of those they have injured,” he said.

He welcomed the proposed amendments, but said that there was also a need to instil a safety culture, where people should know not to be behind the wheel when intoxicated. Lee said drinking establishments could do their bit by insisting that patrons do not drive home inebriated, instead offering to call them a cab. “This is a question of being responsible, which would help discourage drink driving in the long run,” he said.