In less than 30 minutes, the legislature's Transportation Committee passed a resolution yesterday to amend Article 31 of the Road Traffic Management and Punishment Law (道路交通規則管理處罰條例) to require everyone in a passenger car on freeways and expressways to buckle their seat belts.
If the amendment is passed by the legislature, drivers of private vehicles could be fined if they or any of their passengers, including those in the back seat, fail to fasten their seat belts before they hit the road.
At present the law only requires the driver and front-seat passengers to wear seat belts. Violators face fines of NT$1,500 if caught without a seatbelt, although the fines rise to between NT$3,000 and NT$6,000 when driving on freeways and expressways.
Since the ministry requires that vehicles manufactured after 1991 must have seat belts installed in the back seats as well as the front, the Transportation Committee decided that cars manufactured before 1991 should be exempt from the amendment.
The amendment has been supported by both legislators and government officials.
However, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wang Yu-ting (王昱婷) suggested that passengers also be fined for not wearing their seat belts. Wang said the amount of the fine should be determined by the number of people inside the vehicle who were not wearing their seat belts, rather than a set fine that would only punish the driver.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Tsai Duei (
The committee passed the amendment in the wake of a traffic accident on Saturday that left Shaw Hsiao-ling (
At press time yesterday, Shaw remained in intensive care in Chi Mei Hospital in Tainan.
The amendment was approved by the Procedure Committee last fall. The Transportation Committee was not scheduled to review it yesterday, but Wang proposed changing the agenda and the motion was quickly seconded by other committee members.
The amendment had been drafted by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Tsiao-long (
Chen said that he was napping in his car when his chauffeur hit an electric pole. The right side of Chen's face hit the B pillar, a shaft placed between the car door in the front and the one at the back. His right eyeball popped out of the socket, the bones around the socket were partially damaged and his upper cheek was turned inside out. He required extensive reconstructive surgery.
The committee's resolution also stated that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications would have a three-month period after the amendment was passed to promote the new policy before implementing it.
A statement by the Department of Railways and Highways said that a person is 25 times more likely to die in a traffic accident if he or she were ejected from a vehicle in rather than remaining inside.
Research by the Legislative Organic Laws and Statute Bureau last year found that the death rate of motorists not wearing seat belts was more than three times that of those wearing seat belts.
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