Taipei’s proposal to stiffen penalties for drink driving halted

NOT IN YOUR REMIT::If local governments want to introduce penalties, they must consult with the nation’s legislative body, the MOTC said

By Kuo Yi, Kuo An-chia and Sean Huang  /  Staff reporters

Mon, Oct 19, 2015 - Page 3

A draft bylaw proposed by the Taipei City Government that would impose punishments not only on drunk drivers, but also on their passengers, has been delayed after the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) cited “incongruities” between the punishments proposed by the bylaw and those stipulated under national law.

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) in August said the city government would propose a bylaw including the collective punishments and also sanctioning the premises where violators had purchased alcohol.

However, Taipei Department of Transportation division chief Liu Chia-yu (劉嘉佑) on Friday said that the bylaw conflicted with national laws.

Liu said it is difficult to pinpoint where drivers bought alcoholic drinks, making the proposed bylaw difficult to enforce.

A similar proposal submitted by the ministry in 2013 was rejected following objections from the Ministry of Justice and the National Police Agency that fining passengers would be unfair, as they could be more inebriated than the driver and unable to avoid violating the law.

The MOTC said that drunk driving is adressed by the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act (道路交通管理處罰條例), and any activity unilaterally deemed criminal by local governments, that is not covered by the exisitng national law, would confuse the public.

If local governments want to introduce new penalties, they must first consult with the legislative body, which would then decide whether to amend existing regulations, the MOTC said.

While the city government respects the MOTC’s opinion, Ko is still determined to tackle drink driving, and the mayor has ordered that the department file a request with the legislature, asking it to assess the viability of pushing through an amendment that would introduce more severe punishments, Taipei City Government spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明) said.

Under the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act, drivers who fail a breathalyzer test face a maximum fine of NT$90,000 (US$2,769) and might have their driver’s licenses suspended for a year.

Under the Criminal Code, drunk drivers who cause severe injuries are subject to prison terms of seven years, while drunk drivers who cause accidents in which there are fatalities may be imprisoned for up to 10 years.

Ko’s unwavering stance on drunk driving has been viewed by many as a reaction to the death of Tseng Yu-tze (曾御慈), a student of Ko’s when he was a professor at the National Taiwan University College of Medicine, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2013.