Thu, Jun 27, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Prosecute passengers of drunk drivers: lawmaker

NO FREE RIDE:Alex Tsai said harsher penalties were not sufficient, and Japan has taken such steps, while officials denied civil servants’ superiors would be held liable

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) yesterday proposed that passengers in a vehicle driven by a drunk driver should face criminal charges for not stopping the driver, given that the legal system does not have effective measures to prevent drinking and driving.

Tsai called a press conference to present his proposal, saying that the recently revised laws against driving under the influence, which some said had “the world’s toughest standards” for alcohol levels in motorists, were not an effective deterrent.

The revisions to the Criminal Code on May 31 lowered the standard ratio of breath-alcohol content for criminal charges for drunk driving from 0.55mg per liter to 0.25mg per liter, or a blood-alcohol content of 0.15mg per liter.

Drivers caught with blood alcohol levels exceeding 0.15mg per liter in a Breathalyzer test can be fined up to NT$90,000, while people who cause a death as a result of driving under the influence face up to 10 years in jail.

The number of drunk-driving cases caught from June 13, the day the new rules took effect, to June 23, stood at 2,849, a drop of only 20 percent, showing that it was a less effective deterrent than expected, Tsai said.

Tsai said he would propose an amendment to the Act Governing the Punishment of Violation of Road Traffic Regulations (道路交通管理處罰條例) in the next legislative session to punish passengers in a car driven by a driver who fails an alcohol test.

Taiwan should learn from the experience of Japan, where when a person is caught driving under the influence of alcohol, people who offered the driver alcohol and passengers in the car face a jail term of three years or a fine of ¥500,000 (US$5,120), Tsai said.

Meanwhile, Directorate-General of Personnel Administration Minister Frank Huang (黃富源) said the agency would hold a meeting tomorrow to decide whether to hold senior civil servants responsible for their immediate subordinates in drunk-driving cases.

Huang dismissed a report in the Chinese-language China Times saying that civil servants involved in drunk-driving cases will implicate their immediate superiors.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) last week urged public servants not to drink and drive, saying the Public Functionary Discipline Commission would hand down “the most severe punishments” for bureaucrats and officials who violate the drunk-driving laws, meaning that they could be dismissed from their posts.

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