The penalty for traffic infringements are a "joke" - PM

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi has described the penalties for traffic infringements as a "joke", during debate in the Parliament over a bill to outlaw street racing in Samoa.

He was responding to concerns by MP Fonotoe Lauofo Pierre on Tuesday, who said the penalties that are subscribed under Samoa's traffic laws are the same for someone convicted of causing death and serious injuries. 

“It is up to five years and 20 units or suspension of driver’s license, yet there should be harsher penalties for an incident that causes death.

“The LTA should also be given the authority to impound vehicles racing on the main road. There are also vehicles the engines have been altered to make it faster than it already is, and this is dangerous. 

“The LTA who is responsible for registrations of vehicle and they should impound the vehicles and if anything those cars should be destroyed," said Fonotoe.

The Prime Minister, in response to the MP's concerns, agreed and added that “up to five years” could also see the offender serving just one day in prison.  

“Even the fine penalties, it says that up to $100,000 that means the fine can only be $5 tala. That is why our jail is crowded (as) it appears people continue to break the law, knowing they will pay a minimal fine and serve one day in jail.” 

The Prime Minister then called on the Attorney General's Office to reconsider the penalties in this legislation and in the current laws, as they are not suitable given the crime committed. 

“The penalties in our traffic laws are a joke. It appears it is a hefty sentence, if its seven years in jail and fine of up to $50,000. Yet when the Judge sentenced the offender to two days – and that is why we need to say not more rather than up to five years – meaning the sentencing can go up to six or eight years in jail, that’s why this issue is relatively important."

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Minister of Land Transport Authority, Papali’itele Niko Lee Hang, said the amendments to the Road Traffic Ordinance 1960 came as a result of street racing incidences in the past. 

He explained that the proposed bill will outlaw street or drag racing and other related prohibited activities on roads. 

“A person must not operate a vehicle on a road, in a race or in an unnecessary exhibition of speed or acceleration, in a manner that causes the vehicle to undergo sustained loss of traction.” 

Member of Parliament, Tafua Maluelue Tafua of Aleipata Itupa i Lalo, appealed for this measure to include the outlawing of vehicle accessories such as high density lights and air-horns. 

He also took issue with the vehicles that produce high gas emissions which he said is a health hazard. 

“If you inhale the emissions for 15 minutes, you’ll die instantly and that calls for concern,” he added. 

However, MP Alaiasa Sepulona Moananu was not happy that Parliament made amendments to the law to address the issues of street racing and appealed to the LTA Minister to also consider outlawing slow drivers. 

The penalties under the proposed legislation include: 

 (a) commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five (5) years or to a fine not exceeding 20 penalty units; and (b) the court must order the person to be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for one (1) year or more. (3) A person who contravenes subsection (1) and by that act or omission causes the death of any person: 

3 (a) commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five (5) years or to a fine not exceeding 20 penalty units; and (b) the court must order the person to be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for one (1) year or more. 

(4) A person who contravenes subsection (1) but does not, by that act or omission, cause injury to, or the death of any person: (a) commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two (2) years or to a fine not exceeding 10 penalty units; and (b) the court must order the person to be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for six (6) months or more. 

(5) Despite section 72D(1), if an authorised officer believes on reasonable grounds that a person has contravened this section, an authorised officer must seize and impound the vehicle under section 72D. (6) 

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