The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said it would lower the limit of the maximum blood-alcohol level (BAC) for three types of drivers in view of a rise in accidents caused by drunk drivers, with the new policy scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1.
The new standards were unveiled at the legislature’s Transportation Committee meeting yesterday, when lawmakers reviewed an amendment to the Act Governing Punishments for Violations of Road Traffic Regulations (道路交通管理處罰條例).
Department of Highways and Railways Director-General Chen Yen-po (陳彥伯) said the amendments were jointly drafted by the MOTC and the Ministry of the Interior, and targeted three categories of drunk drivers: those without a license, those with a license issued less than two years ago and professional drivers.
The BAC for all three driver groups would be lowered from 0.25mg per liter to 0.15mg per liter.
Chen said that professional drivers must ensure the safety of the passengers and goods that they carry, as well as that of other drivers. For drivers who have only recently received their licenses, Chen said it was important that they learn the importance of not drinking and driving because they are still inexperienced behind the wheel.
Other amendments to the act set a harsher penalty for recidivists. Those who are caught drunk driving twice or more within five years could face a maximum fine of NT$90,000 and have their license revoked. They would only be allowed to retake the driving test three years after the revocation.
Another amendment is also to impose stricter penalties on those who refuse to stop their cars and take Breathalyzer tests. Apart from paying a NT$90,000 fine, violators would have their car towed on the spot and their licenses revoked. They would also be made to take a driving course.
In other developments, the Directorate-General of Highways (DGH) said it found no mechanical issues in 44 randomly selected Isuzu medium-size tour buses it had asked the Japanese car manufacturer to recall after a tour bus accident in Hsinchu County killed 13 passengers nine days ago.
A video clip showed the tour bus in Hsinchu moving backward and falling into a valley after it drove past a curve. A similar incident happened in May to another tour bus of the same model in Taroko Gorge.
The directorate suspected that the vans’ braking system may have been cause of these accidents.
Hsieh Chieh-tien (謝界田), director of the DGH’s motor vehicle division, said that the inspection results showed that the bus would not slide back for at least a minute or two when on uphill and downhill roads as long as drivers followed standard operating procedure, including putting on the hand brake, turning off the engine and shifting gears from drive to neutral.
Hsieh said that the preliminary conclusion on the cause of the accident in Hsinchu was that the driver was not adhering to the driving protocol and that the roads were too narrow.