The National Freeway Bureau has said it will start designating parking space for women at nighttime in some freeway rest areas to better protect female drivers.
The bureau began trial operation of the service on Nov. 16 at freeway service areas in Jhungli (中壢) in Taoyuan County, Hukou (湖口) and Guangsi (關西) in Hsinchu County and Shihding (石碇) in New Taipei City (新北市).
The bureau plans to make the same service available in rest areas in Taian (泰安) in Miaoli County, Gukeng (古坑) in Yunlin County and in Sinying (新營), Rende (仁德), Dongshan (東山) and Guanmiao (關廟) in Greater Tainan, by the end of this year.
Leu Wen-yuh (呂文玉), director of the bureau’s traffic management department, said the bureau decided to introduce the service after Taipei’s MRT system started using nighttime waiting zones for female passengers on platforms.
She said that each freeway rest area would have about four to six parking spaces reserved for women between 10pm and 6am.
To further protect female drivers, Leu said that the bureau has increased installations of surveillance systems and lighting around the parking spaces. It has also asked the Freeway Police to enhance patrols in areas surrounding the parking spaces.
The bureau added that women could request that security guards at the freeway rest areas accompany them to their cars at night if they deem it necessary.
The bureau is not the only agency under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications offering services to protect women.
The Taiwan Railways Administration tried to reserve one train carriage on every commuter train for the use of female passengers in 2006, but the service was canceled after six months of trial operations due to low usage rates and criticism from the public.
It partially resumed the service in 2010 on trains operating in the early morning or at night by designating the first train carriage for the use of female passengers after a female student was sexually assaulted by a male passenger.
Although fines of between NT$600 and NT$1,200 are issued to drivers illegally occupying parking spaces reserved for disabled drivers, bureau chief engineer Wu Mu-fu (吳木富) said that there is no penalty for male drivers if they choose to park in spaces reserved for women and said that it was not the bureau’s intention to punish drivers for not observing the new measures.
“We want everyone to protect women when they are driving at night,” Wu said.