Starting on March 1, people who are caught while driving under the influence of alcohol more than once within a five-year period could face a maximum fine of NT$90,000 and have their driver’s license revoked, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said yesterday.
The new penalty was set after an amendment to the Act Governing Punishments for Violations of Road Traffic Regulations (道路交通管理處罰條例), which was promulgated by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Jan. 30 this year, was passed in the legislature.
Department of Highways and Railways Director-General Chen Yen-po (陳彥伯) said drivers who try to avoid police inspections or who refuse to take a breathalyzer test would be fined NT$90,000 under the new regulations, up from NT$3,000 and NT$60,000 respectively.
Chen said that National Police Agency statistics between 2006 and 2010 showed that 17.8 percent of drunk drivers caught have more than one drunk-driving violation.
Aside from the maximum fine, the new regulations also set standards for the punishment of drunk drivers in different categories.
The Road Traffic Security Rules (道路交通安全規則) stipulate that a person is driving under the influence of alcohol when their blood-alcohol content exceeds 0.15mg per liter.
Drivers who are caught with a blood-alcohol content of between 0.15mg per liter and 0.25mg per liter who have been driving without a license, who have held a license for less than two years or who are professional drivers will be fined NT$15,000 if they are riding a motorcycle and NT$19,500 if they are driving a light vehicle, like a small family car, while heavy-vehicle drivers will be fined NT$22,500.
Drivers with a blood-alcohol content of between 0.25mg per liter and 0.4mg per liter would face fines of NT$22,500, NT$29,000 and NT$33,500 in the respective categories.
The penalties for drivers caught with a blood-alcohol content of between 0.4mg per liter and 0.55mg per liter have been increased to NT$45,000, NT$51,500 and NT$56,000 in the respective categories.
Drivers in the respective categories with a blood-alcohol content exceeding 0.55mg per liter will be fined NT$67,500, NT$74,000 and NT$78,500. They will also face criminal charges.
Chen said the Ministry of Justice has proposed an amendment to the Criminal Code to lower the blood-alcohol content standard for criminal charges from 0.55mg per liter to 0.25mg per liter.
Should the legislature pass the amendment, Chen added, the ministry would study the possibility of simultaneously lowering the base limit for fines to 0.15mg per liter.
“Zero tolerance for drunk driving does not mean that the blood-alcohol content should be zero,” Chen said.
He said that a study by the Central Police University shows that people weighing 60kg reach a blood-alcohol content of 0.15mg per liter after they have consumed two cans of beer.
Chen said the study should only serve as a reference, as the situation varies from person to person and involves other factors, such as a person’s weight, whether a person has eaten a meal while drinking or whether a person has been drinking on an empty stomach.
“The bottom line is that nobody should drive if he or she has been drinking,” Chen said.