Taiwan People’s Party’s (TPP) legislators yesterday urged the government to toughen penalties for drunk drivers, improve alcohol interlock devices and order convicted drunk drivers to attend intervention treatment programs to reduce drunk driving accidents.
The party’s legislative caucus held a news conference at its office in Taipei after a man allegedly drove into a family of four on a crosswalk in Kaohsiung while driving under the influence (DUI) on Sunday, killing a woman and injuring three others. The incident caused a public outcry.
Citing DUI fatalities from January to September in the six special municipalities, TPP caucus whip Chiu Chen-yuan (邱臣遠) said that while ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) always “put on a show” of expressing anger toward drunk drivers after accidents, the fatalities in the three cities led by DPP mayors were the highest.
Taoyuan, Tainan and Kaohsiung each reported 27 deaths from DUI accidents, an increase of seven to nine people from last year, while four deaths were reported in Taipei and New Taipei City each, and 18 deaths were reported in Taichung, he said.
The numbers have caused people to question the government’s determination to enforce its “zero tolerance to drunk driving” policy, he added.
Chiu said a policy implemented in March last year requires repeat drunk drivers to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles, but as of last month, only 95 of 2,367 vehicles that were required to install the device had them installed, which is an implementation rate of about 4 percent.
“Ignition interlock devices should be installed in all new vehicles in phases and related regulations should be amended so that repeat offenders and their family members’ vehicles are equipped with an ignition interlock device, copaid by fines collected from drunk driving offenders and the offenders involved in the case,” he said.
TPP Legislator Ann Kao (高虹安) said the devices should also be improved to include a facial recognition function and connected to a dashboard camera, so that drivers cannot ask other people to unlock them.
Rental car and ride-sharing operators should also have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles to prevent individuals from driving their vehicles while drunk, and create a better traffic safety net, she added.
Citing Taipei City Government data, TPP Legislator Tsai Pi-ru (蔡壁如) said that about 18 percent of convicted drunk drivers are caught driving drunk again within a year, but the rates fall to about 6.85 percent in one year and 11.8 percent in two years if they were admitted to an intervention program at Taipei City Hospital.
Tsai on Tuesday evening also wrote on Facebook that according to Ministry of Transportation and Communications data from the past decade, the rate of repeat drunk driving is about 37 percent.
Of the people who have been caught driving drunk more than four times, about 88.2 percent were diagnosed with alcohol addiction, Tsai added.
From criminology and public preventive healthcare perspectives, repeat drunk drivers should be admitted to a mandatory alcohol addiction treatment program and a social safety net program should follow up on their condition to effectively prevent drunk driving from the beginning, she said.
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