A law barring drivers from calling or receiving calls with their mobile phones without the use of a hands-free kit has been expanded to include any use of mobile phones, tablet computers and laptops.
Drivers caught using phones without the hands-free kit or tablets while operating a vehicle could face a fine of NT$3,000 if legislators pass an amendment to the Act Governing the Punishment of Violation of Road Traffic Regulations (道路交通管理處罰條例).
The amendment, proposed by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞), passed review at the legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday. It must pass a second and third reading before becoming law.
Currently, Item 1 of Article 31 in the act only bars motorists from dialing, receiving phone calls or communicating with their mobile phones without the hands-free kit while driving. Car drivers violating the specific regulation may be fined NT$3,000, while motorcyclists may be fined NT$1,000.
However, Huang and Lee said mobile phones now allow people to do more than just dial and receive phone calls. Some tablet computers are equipped with mobile phone functionality as well.
They proposed that the law’s scope be expanded to include users of mobile phones, tablet computers or any other types of computer.
According to the amendment, talking on a mobile phone without the hands-free kit or using a mobile phone or computer to go online, send text messages or play applications while driving would be considered dangerous driving behavior.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications said police can fine motorists between NT$6,000 and NT$24,000 using the current regulations stated in the act if drivers are deemed to be engaging in behavior qualifying them as “dangerous drivers.”
“They [dangerous drivers] are so distracted [while using mobile devices] that they cannot focus on what is in front of them or they begin to swerve out of their lanes,” said Lin Fu-shan (林福山), a section chief of the ministry’s Department of Railways and Highways.
The proposed amendment would allow police to fine motorists who are caught engaging in any of these activities, even if they are not causing immediate danger to themselves or other drivers.
The minimum fine would still be NT$3,000 for car drivers and NT$1,000 for motorcyclists.
Vice Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said the ministry would respect and support the committee’s decision on the amendment.
The amendment, though designed to enhance road safety, did not say whether motorists could check their mobile phones or computers if they are waiting for traffic lights or stopped temporarily at the side of a road.
To avoid controversy, Lin said the ministry still needed to stipulate rules to help police enforce the act if the amendment is passed.