Drivers who are caught using cell phones or other devices now face stiff penalties as the anti-distracted driver law (Republic Act 10913) takes effect today.
Under the new law, the use of mobile communication devices while driving is prohibited.
“The act of writing, reading, sending a text-based message, making phone calls, or watching movies, surfing the Internet, reading an e-book or performing any sort of computation on a mobile device” is not allowed, even if the vehicle is stationary during heavy traffic or at a stop light.
Mobile devices can be used if they have hands-free capabilities, such as a speakerphone or Bluetooth-enabled device. The device must not, however, “interfere with the driver’s line of sight,” which a representative from the Department of Transportation said is roughly defined as anything above the line of the vehicle’s dashboard or below the interior rear-view mirror.
Exceptions to the law include using a mobile device when pulled over and stopped outside the normal flow of traffic or for emergency purposes such as to contact police or rescue services. Operators of emergency vehicles can use the device if it is within the scope of their duties.
Violators will be slapped a fine of P5,000 for the first offense, P10,000 for the second offense, a P15,000 fine and three-month suspension of the driver’s license for the third offense and a fine of P20,000 and revocation of the driver’s license for the fourth offense.
Stiffer penalties are imposed for Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) drivers, drivers of school service vehicles or drivers of a common carrier of flammable or toxic materials, as well as any motorist caught in violation of the law within 50 meters of a school; for the first violation for any of these, a fine of P30,000 and three-month suspension of license will be imposed.
Land Transportation Office Chief Ed Galvante said that motorists who need to read a message from their phone should pull over and stop before reading the message.
“If you need to read a message, get out of the way,” Galvante said in a news conference on Wednesday.
The same rule applies to transport network vehicle drivers who use apps to accommodate passengers and Waze to get directions, Galvante added.
“If they need to use their gadgets, they must get out of the way so they won’t disturb traffic flow,” he said.
The LTO chief noted that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has high definition cameras to monitor vehicles with tinted windows.
Galvante said owners of heavily-tinted vehicles should also face sanctions.
A group of Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) traffic enforcers monitoring traffic in the Mall of Asia area on Wednesday morning told The Manila Times they had been briefed on the new law, and were instructed to “strictly enforce” it.
“We will be watching closely,” one officer, who asked not to be identified, said. “This is important for public safety, we think it’s a good law, and of course, that’s our instructions.”