Thu, Apr 27, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Tougher fines for repeat DUI offenders proposed

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Cheng Pao-ching yesterday displays a license plate at the Legislative Yuan as he suggests that fluorescent license plates that are easily recognizable be placed on the vehicles of people who have a record of drunk driving.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

People suspected or convicted of drunk driving, or driving under the influence (DUI), could face tougher punishments after lawmakers on the Legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday passed the preliminary review of amendments to the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act (道路交通管理處罰條例).

The amendment to Article 35 and five other articles were proposed by 10 lawmakers from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the People First Party (PFP), the New Power Party (NPP), as well as the PFP and NPP caucuses. Each proposed their own versions of the amendment.

Lawmakers said that even though the government has stepped up its efforts to crack down on DUI offenders, who face fines ranging from NT$15,000 to NT$90,000 (US$497 to US$2,985), data from 2010 and 2015 showed that about 37 percent of drunk drivers are likely to reoffend.

Drivers who refuse to take a breathalyzer test can be fined NT$90,000, but most people stopped by police on suspicion of drunk driving still choose not to take the test and pay the fine instead, lawmakers said.

The reason is that if the breathalyzer tests show the drivers have an alcohol level exceeding 0.25mg per liter, they would face criminal charges that could leave a permanent mark on their records, the lawmakers said.

Just paying the fine means that suspect drivers can avoid further legal proceedings, they said.

Under the proposals approved yesterday by the committee, drivers who refuse to take a breathalyzer test would be fined NT$180,000 for a first offense, although they would also face confiscation of their vehicles if they are involved in a fatal accident that leads to serious injuries or deaths.

If a driver refuses to take a breathalyzer test two or more times in a five-year period, the proposal amendment would increase their penalty by NT$180,000 for each non-compliance, meaning a driver stopped a second time for suspected drunk driving who refuses the test would be fined NT$360,000 and so on.

However, the proposals also stipulate that such drivers would lose their drivers’ licenses and they would be banned from taking another driving test for life.

The proposed amendment also raises the minimum fine for drunk drivers from NT$15,000 to NT$30,000, while the maximum fine of NT$90,000 remains unchanged.

Licenses of drunk drivers would also be suspended for two years, or for four years if there were children under the age of 12 in their vehicles at the time they were stopped or if they were involved in an accident that led to injuries to their passengers.

They could lose their vehicles if they cause injuries or deaths of other individuals within five years, the amendment states.

In addition, penalties for drunk-driving recidivists would be increased by NT$90,000 each time they are caught.

The amendment would also hold passengers riding with a drunk drivers accountable for not stopping the driver from getting behind the wheel.

Each passenger could be fined NT$6,000 to NT$12,000 for riding with a drunk driver. However, the penalty does not apply to taxi passengers and passengers who are below 18 years of age, above 70 years old, or mentally challenged.

Tthe amendment would also requires DUI offenders to have a special license plate on their vehicle for at least one year. If they avoid a second DUI infraction within a year, their vehicle’s normal license plate would be restored.

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