Following a recent series of fatal car accidents caused by drunk drivers, Minister of the Interior Lee Hung-yuan (李鴻源) voiced support yesterday for more severe penalties and the ultimate goal of a zero-tolerance policy
“We [the Ministry of the Interior] have suggested several times to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications [MOTC] that the fine for driving under the influence of alcohol should be raised from NT$30,000 to NT$90,000,” Lee told the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee meeting.
“We have also said that the maximum blood-alcohol level should be reduced from 0.25mg to 0.15mg per liter — with ‘zero tolerance’ for drunk driving a goal for the future,” Lee said.
From 2007 until last year, more than 31 percent of drunk driving cases were repeat violations, Lee said, adding that this highlighted the need for more severe penalties for recidivism.
The minister made the -suggestion in the wake of several deadly car accidents caused by drunk drivers, which have triggered public anger and demands for stricter penalties.
In April, 22-year-old Yeh Kuan-heng (葉冠亨), who was driving under the influence, hit and killed a woman on a sidewalk. A friend who was a passenger in the vehicle also died when Yeh’s car then collided with a garbage truck.
Last month, Hung Jung-hsiang (洪榮祥), who was also driving under the influence, hit Liao Chin-chuan (廖金川), who was riding a scooter.
Moments later Hung returned to the scene and deliberately ran over Liao, killing him.
Public anger has been inflamed by prosecutors seeking only a seven-year jail sentence for Yeh, because according to current law, vehicular homicide while driving under the influence is considered “involuntary homicide” and carries a maximum sentence of seven years.
“I think killing someone while driving under the influence should not be considered ‘involuntary homicide,’” Lee said. “It should be considered ‘intentional murder’ and subject to a more severe penalty.”
Most lawmakers agree that there is a need for stricter penalties.
Lee said that although the interior ministry does not have the authority to amend the law, he would submit proposals to the MOTC and the Ministry of Justice, to start a discussion on whether laws should be amended.
Prior to any revision of the laws, Lee said the interior ministry was doing everything it could to discourage drunk driving.
Its efforts include a stepped-up campaign against drunk driving and more police checkpoints at random locations and times.
From Jan. 1 through April 30, police stopped 36,316 drunk drivers and a total of 148 people died in car accidents related to drunk driving, Lee said.
“The number of drunk driving cases dropped by 2,924, or 7.45 percent, compared with the same period last year,” Lee said. “The number of deaths related to drunk driving also dropped by three.”