Wed, Nov 12, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Nation's traffic laws are out of date: legislators

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Road Traffic Management and Punishment Law (道路交通管理處罰條例) is outdated and in need of major revisions, legislators said yesterday.

According to Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三), legal revisions which would make installment payments on traffic tickets possible were currently awaiting authorization from the Legislative Yuan.

"The installment payment plan would operate under a few conditions. It would be available only to low-income individuals who have committed minor offenses. Furthermore, it would only be applied to fines in excess of a predetermined amount," said Lee Long-wen (李龍文), director-general of the Department of Railways and Highways.

However, legislators yesterday said that the ministry had missed the mark with the installment policies, stating that the real problem lay not so much with payment options as with excessively heavy fines.

"Our traffic laws date from the martial law era. They are outdated and focus mainly on punishment instead of on improving traffic conditions," independent Legislator Sisy Chen (陳文茜) said.

People First Party Legislator Lee Hung-chiung (李鴻鈞), a member of the Transportation Committee, agreed with Chen.

"The traffic laws have only been changed three times since 1997, with each amendment geared primarily toward increasing the fines," Lee said.

He said the number of traffic offenses committed each year has not been affected by the higher fines.

"There were 32 traffic violations for every 10,000 citizens in 1997, but last year there were 49 traffic violations per 10,000 people, despite fine increases," Lee said.

"Excessive fines have proven to be inefficient. We need to reconsider the traffic law with the idea of encouraging optimal traffic conditions instead of focusing on punishment and fines," Lee said.

Lee's criticism comes after the ministry reported on Monday that the government expects to collect NT$6.9 billion in traffic fines in the upcoming fiscal year, NT$535,000 more than last year.

Lee proposed that instead of merely instituting an installment payment plan, the government should consider launching a traffic demerit system which would lead to fines only after a determined number of demerit points had been accumulated within a certain period of time.

Tsai Chung-chih (蔡中志), a traffic science professor at the Central Police University, said 20 million traffic violations were reported last year, much more than in most other countries. He reported that Japan had roughly 800,000 violations each year, although Japan's population is six times that of Taiwan.

"We need to revise our traffic laws so that fines are relevant to the gravity of the violation. For example, violators who slightly exceed the speed limit should be fined less than those who far exceed it," Tsai said.

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