Sun, Apr 21, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Fine drivers watching video, NPA says

ROAD SAFETY:The National Police Agency said it made the recommendation due to motorists using holders to skirt the law and using devices while operating motorbikes

By Cheng Wei-chi, Huang Tun-yuan, Jonathan Chin and William Heth  /  Staff reporters, with staff writers

A mobile phone is mounted in a holder on a bicycle in Tainan’s T-Bike system.

Photo: Hung Jui-chin, Taipei Times

The National Police Agency (NPA) has recommended that the law be amended so that motorists watching video on smartphones that have been placed in holders be subject to fines, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said.

The Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act (道路交通管理處罰條例) says that motor vehicle operators who hold a handheld device, such as a smartphone or computer, and make a call or otherwise communicate be fined NT$1,000 to NT$3,000.

The agency said it hopes that the ministry would propose an amendment to prohibit the playback of video on mobile devices in holders, instead of prohibiting the “holding of phones and tablets” while driving.

The recommendation is being made due to the increasing number of motorists using holders to skirt the law and using mobile devices while operating motorbikes, the agency said.

Amending the law would not be as simple as changing the wording, the ministry said, adding that it would need to discuss whether phone holders should be banned outright and how police would prove that motorists were watching a device in a holder.

Police officers have not made a dent in the use of mobile devices by drivers, the agency said, citing statistics.

Police in 2016 issued 36,438 tickets to operators of cars and motorbikes using mobile devices on the road, a noticeable increase from the 14,808 tickets in 2015 and 10,727 in 2014, it said.

The uptick that year was largely due a crackdown on drivers playing augmented-reality games, mainly Pokemon Go, it said.

After the crackdown, police continued to issue tickets to operators using devices: 27,563 tickets in 2017, 30,344 last year and 7,950 from January to last month, it said.

The number of tickets is expected to continue rising as smartphone usage increases, it added.

Foreign researchers have concluded that driving while using devices is a dangerous distraction on par with driving while intoxicated, the agency said.

Many drivers are apparently unaware that using a mobile device while waiting at a red light, is illegal, it said.

Nationwide, driving while using a device has led to 2,354 traffic accidents in which one or more people were seriously wounded or killed, it added.

The agency said that it believes the law takes an overly narrow view of mobile device use, as drivers have been known to play videos or games with a mounted device, which can be detrimental to road safety, but does not technically break the law.

As a result, the agency has asked the ministry to introduce an amendment that would broaden restrictions and eliminate dangerous road activity, it said.

The agency said it also recommended that regulations forbidding officers from filming traffic stops related to device usage should be amended, as it makes it difficult to prove in court that an infraction occurred.

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