In a step that will hopefully increase road safety, using your mobile phone while driving is now officially banned. This is following the publication of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10913, better known as the Anti-Distracted Driving Act.
Drivers can still use their phones but must use a hands free system to do so, bringing the Philippines in line with the laws in many other countries. “They can use headphones. They can use their smart phones without holding it because the law states that drivers should not be distracted in driving even during the stoplight or temporary stop,” Land Transportation Office (LTO) executive director Romeo Vera Cruz commented to the media.
Using your phone while driving has been proven to be a serious distraction for drivers. RA10913 covers more than just using your phone to make calls while driving, though. Under the act, even activities such as using your smartphone for navigation can be considered distracted driving, and see you at the receiving end of LTO enforcement. “If they are using Waze, the device should not be positioned in a way that would distract the driver,” LTO Law Enforcement Service director Francis Ray Almora said in an interview with the media.
Under some circumstances, you don’t even have to be moving to risk a ticket. RA 10913 defines “distracted driving” as “performance by motorists or drivers in a running motor vehicle or even temporarily stopped at the red light.” The only way to make a (non hands free) phone call, set your navigation, or play your mobile game (you know who you are!) legally now is to pull over and stop your car completely. However, should you come across an accident or have to call any emergency services such as the fire department, police or ambulance, then you may use your phone without risking a ticket.
You also need to be very careful with phone holders that are attached to your windscreen, as the mere existence of them within your car can be construed as distracted driving if your phone is placed in one, and if it is within your field of sight while driving. The rules here are a little spongy, but if you don’t fancy arguing it out with an enforcer then I would recommend you make sure that your phone is out of sight when driving. This windscreen device holder rule of course does not apply to dash cams as long as they are installed properly behind the mirror in the middle of the screen.
Fines for violations of the act are significant and stand at P5,000 for the first offense, P10,000 for the second offense, P15,000 and suspension of the driver’s license for three months for the third offense, and a P20,000 fine and revocation of the driver’s license for the fourth offense. The law also states that when it comes to enforcement, agencies such as the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), among others, shall assist the LTO in the law’s effective implementation.
Some will now inevitably say that this is yet another law that won’t be properly enforced, while others will start looking for loopholes to escape fines, but doing so really misses the point of this act. When in control of a motor vehicle of any type, your full attention should be on driving, and not on using your phone or doing other things. Especially in traffic as busy and unpredictable as here, there is no excuse not to pay proper attention to the road and the environment around you while driving. No phone call, no text message, and no game update is more important than arriving at your destination safely and in one piece.
You can read the whole Republic Act 10913 in PDF form here: https://www.gov.ph/downloads/2016/07jul/20160721-RA-10913-BSA.pdf
What do you think of this new act? Share your thoughts in the comments below.