'Line of sight' rule eased for drivers, gadgets OK within 'safety zone'
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) released on Wednesday, June 14, the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act (ADDA), which had been suspended after causing confusion among motorists and even lawmakers.
The new IRR includes:
- The concept of a "safety zone," which redefines line of sight.
- Exemption through "hands-free" use of phones, which was already included in the previous version of the IRR.
- The plan of the DOTr to conduct an information campaign on the law, which is a requirement stated in the law itself – a fact that lawmakers earlier pointed out.
DOTr Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs Leah Quiambao said in a press briefing that the revised IRR will be published in the next few days, and will take effect 15 days after its publication, or by July 2017.
The law will be enforced by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in Manila, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) nationwide.
'Line of sight' redefined
The meaning of "line of sight" has been adjusted in the new IRR, a move likely to be welcomed by motorists since this was their main complaint when the ADDA rules were earlier announced.
Previously, the DOTr said any area above the dashboard was off-limits to gadgets. Transport authorities recommended that drivers place gadgets below the dashboard or near the handbrake. Motorists argued then that it would actually be more dangerous for them to look down, away from the windshield, even for just a few seconds.
Now, the new IRR prescribes a "safety zone" that allows gadgets to be placed in the area below, at the same level, or on top of the dashboard, and even on the windshield, as long as the highest point of the device is not higher than 4 inches from the dashboard.
Within this safety zone, drivers may glance at their phones to use navigation applications. If drivers glance at their phones outside this zone, they will be apprehended.
Similar to the previous IRR, phones can also be used hands-free as long as these are still within the safety zone and drivers' eyes remain on the road.
Motorists can put their phones on loudspeaker mode or use earphones to take calls.
The exemptions previously announced will also stay – drivers can use their phones for emergency situations, reporting natural disasters or crime, or when seeking medical help. They do not need to pull over first if they have to use their phone in case of emergency.
Asked about distractions coming from sources other than gadgets, Quiambao acknowledged the ADDA is "limited" in scope, and was crafted to respond only to distractions caused by mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and gaming devices.
This means rosaries and toys placed on dashboards of vehicles, as well as built-in televisions, are not covered by the law.
Dashcams are also not covered. Drivers, however, are encouraged to place the device at the back of the rearview mirror.
Jeepney drivers may also turn to their riders at the back of their vehicles when accepting payment and giving change.
Quiambao emphasized that they cannot make rules beyond the scope of the law, which was what they had been criticized for in the first place. She said the DOTr tried its best to produce the new IRR upon consultation with affected sectors, such as drivers of public utility vehicles, Grab and Uber drivers, and private vehicle owners.
Quiambao said the DOTr plans to launch television and radio announcements to disseminate the new rules. It is coordinating with the Department of the Interior and Local Government for a nationwide information campaign.
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