Higher sentences for serious traffic offences
The legislative proposal introduced by Minister of Justice and Security Ferdinand Grapperhaus, which will enable higher sentences to be given for serious traffic offences, was adopted by the Dutch Senate and will take effect 1 January 2020. First off, the maximum penalty for dangerous driving will be increased from two to six months in prison, including in cases where no injuries or damage were caused. This is required to deal more firmly with drivers who drive dangerously on the road, such as by overtaking other vehicles irresponsibly.
In addition, a two-year maximum prison sentence for extremely dangerous driving behaviour will be introduced for drivers who intentionally commit serious violations of traffic regulations, without paying heed to the safety of others. Such cases involve more than a single traffic offence, as it is a combination of behaviours which will be punished. This could, for example, concern serious speeding, ignoring red traffic lights and driving on the wrong side of the road while also holding a mobile phone, in conditions where it is easily imaginable that this could cause an accident. The fact that no one falls victim is down to chance or sheer luck. Grapperhaus will therefore be taking serious issue with drivers exhibiting extremely dangerous and irresponsible behaviour on the road, even if they do not cause an accident.
In cases where they do indeed cause an accident with such reckless driving behaviour, they may receive up to six-year prison sentences. The Act sets out more clearly what reckless driving entails. This increases opportunities to prosecute drivers who take unacceptable risks and cause the most serious accidents. This does not just involve illegal road racing, but also drivers who drive madly, commit multiple traffic offences or cause an accident involving death or serious injury.
The maximum prison sentences for traffic offences such as driving while under the influence, failing to stop after an accident, driving without a driving licence or driving without a valid one, will be increased from three months to one year. This will also have consequences for repeat offenders. If someone is found guilty of driving under the influence a second time within five years, the penalty can be increased by a third. In serious cases of failing to stop after an accident causing injury or death, the police will have greater investigative powers for tracing the perpetrator.
Consultation is set to begin on a legislative proposal that will involve various measures for strengthening the approach to dealing with driving under the influence.