By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PRISON time of up to 15 years has been proposed for a new offence of vehicular manslaughter by reckless driving in a bid to toughen the Road Traffic Act.
In its current form, Section 44 of the Road Traffic Act—killing in the course of reckless and dangerous driving—prescribes a fine of not less than $5,000 but not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment for a term of four years, or both the fine and imprisonment.
However, several new proposed amendments tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday go further, including repealing Section 44 to replace it with a stiff prison sentence and eliminating a monetary fine for killing by reckless driving among other things.
It is now proposed that any person who kills another person by driving a car on a road or public place recklessly “commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment not exceeding 15 years”.
Further, the amendment seeks to insert three additional sections: vehicular manslaughter by dangerous driving; vehicular manslaughter by careless driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and vehicular manslaughter by driving while committing certain offences against the Road Traffic Act.
Vehicular manslaughter by dangerous driving convictions will be liable to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, while manslaughter by vehicle under the influence of drugs and alcohol would receive the same penalty.
Meanwhile manslaughter while committing certain offences against the Road Traffic Act is proposed to warrant a conviction of a term not exceeding five years. This would include people who cause the death of another person while driving uninsured or while permitting a person or child to ride as a passenger without a seatbelt.
The amendment will repeal Section 47 of the Road Traffic Act.
According to the proposed amendment, the aim is to “remove the perception that the road death offence of killing in the cause of reckless or dangerous driving is in a different and less important family to other killings by changing the name of the offence to vehicular manslaughter.
“The perception that a road death offence is of a lesser variety to other unintentional killings is supported by the lesser penalties imposed by the law for conviction of that offence as compared to other homicide offences. In terms of fault on the part of the driver, and the impact of death on loved ones, there can really be little distinction between road deaths and other unintentional killings.
“In addition to raising the profile of the road death offence in the Road Traffic Act, the bill seeks to expand the law’s reach to include more circumstances by which a driver may commit a road death offence.”
There have been a number of convictions this year for killing in the course of dangerous driving, with some arguing the fines are insufficient when compared to the loss of life.
Earlier this month a man was fined $11,000 and given one year in prison for hitting and killing another man while driving high and drunk in September.
Senior Magistrate Carolyn Vogt-Evans fined Quincy Dean a total of $11,400 and sentenced him to prison for killing the 55-year-old man.
In April, another man was fined over $10,000 for causing the death of a female passenger when the car he was driving smashed into a utility pole in February. Magistrate Kara Turnquest-Deveaux fined Hartman Rolle $10,500 in total for causing the death of Latura Penn.
Of that sum, $10,000 is for killing in the course of dangerous driving, while $250 apiece is for driving without a valid driver’s licence and while not being covered against third party risk insurance.