Personal mobility device (PMD) riders below the age of 16 could face potential jail terms or fines if they are caught using them on public footpaths.
This and other new PMD-riding offences, including the banning of all motorised mobility devices on footpaths except for personal mobility aids, have on Tuesday (Feb. 4) been passed into law, following the passing of the Active Mobility (Amendment) Bill in Parliament.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary explained in a speech during the debate how the growing use of PMDs brought about concerns whether Singapore's infrastructure and regulatory framework were adequate.
The Bill would serve to "build a regulatory framework for safer and sustainable active mobility," said Janil, who is also the Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information.
Underage riders face "jail term" and fine
From the second half of 2020, it will be an offence for people under the age of 16 to ride e-scooters on public paths — unless they are supervised by an adult (at least 21) who has passed the theory test.
The maximum penalty for underage PMD riders caught on public paths will be a fine of between S$1,000 and S$2,000 and imprisonment (or detention) term of between three and six months.
"While the Act prescribes both a possible fine and jail term if a rider commits this offence of under-aged riding, these are maximum penalties," said Janil.
"Our Courts retain discretion in imposing punishment, having regard to the circumstances of the case, and laws such as the Penal Code and the Children and Young Persons Act."
Underage riders need to have adult supervision if they wish to ride an e-scooter on a public path. Said adult needs to ensure that the rider does not ride in a dangerous manner and abides by path-riding rules.
Guidelines on how to supervise underage riders will be published soon, Janil said.
Other offences under the amended Act include:
- Riding a PMD while holding a mobile communications device
- Failure to send PMD for inspection
- Illegally modifying one's PMD
- Selling uncertified PMDs
All these offences carry a penalty of a jail term and/or a fine.
Another significant change is the expansion of the ban of mobility devices from footpaths to all motorised mobility devices except for personal mobility aids, which kicks in from April this year. You can read more about that here:
PAB, PMD riders need to pass theory test
Another change kicking in from the first half of 2021: all users of e-scooters and power-assisted bicycles will be required to pass an online theory test before they are allowed on public paths and roads (for power-assisted bicycles only).
Those who successfully complete the required tests will be issued a competency test certificate.
There's no ruling out the possibility of other tests, though, according to Janil:
"If necessary, LTA will have the flexibility to introduce other types of tests, such as practical riding tests, in future. Under the new section 23G, even if riders have passed the earlier test, LTA can also require them to take new tests."
The maximum penalty for riding on public paths without passing the theory test is a fine of between S$2,000 and S$5,000 and six to 12 months' imprisonment.
Maximum penalties for key user behaviour offences doubled
Elsewhere, the maximum penalties for past provisions under the previous Act have been increased to send a stronger deterrent message, said Janil.
"Most device users are largely law-abiding and ride responsibly. However, LTA’s enforcement officers detected about 4,900 offences in 2019. This is not acceptable.
To send a stronger deterrent message to this group, we will increase the maximum penalties for certain offences. We will generally double the penalties of key user behaviour offences."
Riding of a prohibited device on pedestrian-only paths now incurs a maximum fine of S$2,000 instead of S$1,000 for a first-time offence.
Riding a non-compliant device on public paths now carry a S$10,000 fine instead of S$5,000.
Speeding on public paths now carry a S$2,000 fine instead of S$1,000.
Calling the regulatory approach to the active mobility landscape a "long-term effort", Janil said the government will adjust its approach to keep pace with technological and market development.
NMP "deeply disturbed" by prospect of jailing individuals under 16
Following Janil's speech, several Members of Parliament rose to speak about the Bill, including Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Anthea Ong.
She noted that Section 23A of the Bill makes it an offence for an underaged person riding a motorised PMD on shared paths, punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.
While the Bill does not explicitly define the prescribed minimum riding age, she mentioned the Active Mobility Advisory Panel's recommendation of 16, which the government said it accepted.
"Mr Deputy Speaker, I am deeply disturbed by this."
She went on to point out that the Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) was amended in 2019 to define a young person as below 18 years of age, adding that the Act sets out clear restrictions on the punishment of children, including not being imprisoned for any offence.
She asked if this meant that the amendments contradict existing law, and asked the Minister to consider commensurate measures other than imprisonment.
PAP MP Louis Ng also pointed out that imprisonment will remain on an offender's record, and said that it seemed like an "unduly harsh" punishment.
Janil: Courts will have discretion in sentencing of underage riders
Janil responded to these points in his speech concluding the debate, stating that the minimum riding age of 16 will be introduced only for e-scooters, as a subset of motorised PMDs, first.
He said the penalties for underage riding only indicate the limit of the possible sentence, and that courts still retain the discretion to decide the actual punishment to mete out — this may not end up being a jail sentence.
In another follow-up question, Ong reiterated that the maximum penalty seemed "aggressive", and asked if Janil would consider imposing warnings or reformatory training, before charging underage riders in court.
Janil asked if Ong agreed there should be a minimum age for riding, and she responded in the affirmative.
He said there could be different scenarios involving underage riders, and there was a difference between a deliberately reckless rider, and a rider that was perhaps out with their family but had strayed away from their parents.
"To guarantee that every case is dealt with exactly the same way, I think would be an inappropriate commitment at his point in time."
Top file photo by Joshua Lee