Using cellphones while driving prohibited starting May 18

Kimiko Sy
Under the Anti-Distracted Driving Act, violators will face fines ranging from P5,000 to P20,000

HEADS UP, MOTORISTS. The Anti-Distracted Driving Act is set to be implemented on May 18, 2017.

MANILA, Philippines – A lot of motorists use their mobile phones while behind the wheel – calling, texting, going online, even playing games. Starting Thursday, May 18, it will be illegal for them to do so.

On Thursday, the Anti-Distracted Driving Act will take effect. Under this new law, drivers are banned from using a “mobile communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication or to make or receive calls.”

They also cannot use “an electronic entertainment or computing device to play games, watch movies, surf the internet, compose messages, read e-books, perform calculations” while the vehicle is in motion or even when stopped at a red traffic light.

Using gadgets, however, is not considered distracted driving if done using a hands-free function or similar devices.

Concerns about implementation

In a press conference of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Land Transportation Office (LTO) on Wednesday, May 17, concerns were raised about the implementation of the new law.

For one, will it cover the placement of navigation systems on ride-hailing services like Grab and Uber?

What motorists can do, said the authorities, is to set their destination on navigation apps before trips begin. Gadgets with these apps may be installed in a part of the vehicle that will not obstruct the driver’s view. If motorists need to find alternative routes while in traffic, they should pull over first.

“Kung kinakailangan mong tumingin sa gadget mo na maalis ang tingin mo sa lansangan, kailangan itabi mo muna,” LTO Assistant Secretary Edgardo Galvante said.

(If you need to look at your gadget and your eyes won’t be on the road, you should bring your vehicle to the side of the road first.)

Another concern – how will traffic enforcers check compliance if vehicles are heavily tinted?

The DOTr and the LTO reminded the public that there are standards to be followed for window tints.

“[We] will be coming up with a public information campaign for the next 3 months but law [enforcement] agencies will not stop [in implementing] this,” said DOTr Assistant Secretary Mark de Leon.

He added that every type of vehicle is covered by the new law, including motorcycles, bicycles, and even horse-drawn carriages. Exemptions will be granted only during emergency situations, fire, or crime. Violators, both public and private vehicles, will face fines ranging from P5,000 to P20,000.

Aside from the DOTr and the LTO, the Philippine National Police (PNP), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and local government units (LGUs) are authorized to enforce the Anti-Distracted Driving Act.

Road safety

According to Ronnie Corpus of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), they can also issue additional sanctions for public utility vehicle (PUV) operators who fail to educate their drivers about the law.

Ultimately, the law is for the promotion of road safety.

“Ayaw na natin madagdagan pa [ang mga aksidente]. One life lost from this is one too many. Pati ‘yung pagtawid sa kalsada, nagte-text or nagbabasa… ie-emphasize natin ‘to para ma-remind ang mga tao natin,” Galvante said.

(We don’t want more accidents. Even those crossing the street are texting or reading. We will emphasize this to remind the public.)

De Leon added: “Kung alam ‘nyo na ganito ang batas, ‘wag na kayo gumamit ng cellphone. Ang objective ng batas na ito is not on the enforcement, o sa dami ng huli, kung hindi sa naa-avoid na aksidente.”

(If you already know about this law, don’t use your cellphone while driving. The objective of this law is not to catch as many violators as possible, but to prevent accidents.)

Children on motorcycles

Aside from the Anti-Distracted Driving Act, the Children’s Safety on Motorcycles Act will also be fully implemented. It will take effect on Friday, May 19.

Under that law, a child riding a motorcycle must be able to comfortably reach the standard foot peg of the motorcycle and grasp the waist of the driver.

The child also has to wear a helmet.

Violators will face fines ranging from P3,000 to P10,000. (READ: What laws help keep road users safe in the Philippines?–