A total of 137 deaths caused by drunk driving were reported in the first half of the year, down nearly 50 percent from the same period of last year, according to National Police Agency statistics released yesterday.
The agency said police had reported 59,457 suspected violations of the drunk driving law during the first six months of the year, prosecuting 23,809 of the suspected law-breakers.
During the six-month period, deaths caused by drunk driving totaled 137, which were 66 fewer than a year ago.
On June 13, a stiffened anti-drunk driving law went into force, giving police more ammunition to prevent road accidents caused by motorists driving under the influence of alcohol.
Earlier this month, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) vowed to stamp out Taiwan’s “drunk driving culture” and said foreigners living in Taiwan will not get away with violating the strict new law.
Under the revised Criminal Code, motorists are subject to prosecution for endangering the public if they are caught with a breath-alcohol content of 0.25 milligrams per liter or higher, or a blood-alcohol content of 0.05 percent or above.
Those caught driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics now face up to two years in jail and a maximum fine of NT$200,000.
Offenders could be sentenced to between three and 10 years in jail for causing fatalities. In cases where serious injuries are caused, offenders could face one to seven years in jail.
The revised regulations are among the world’s toughest on drinking and driving, which authorities hope will help curb accidents related to drunk driving.
Lee said a “loophole” in the law whereby a suspect could refuse a breathalyzer test and instead pay a fine of NT$90,000 has been closed, and that the revised law allows police to request permission from a prosecutor to escort a suspect to a hospital for a forced blood test if necessary.
Taiwan reported 124,620 drunk driving violations last year, an increase of 11,190 compared with the previous year.
Three hundred and seventy-six people died in drunk driving accidents last year, 63 fewer than in the year before.