By Vanne Elaine P. Terrazola and Anna Liza Villas Alavaren
The Anti-Distracted Driving Law (RA 10913) takes effect today prohibiting drivers from using communication devices and other electronic and computing gadgets while driving their vehicles or even when stopping at intersections or at red traffic signal.
“Anything that can distract, blur, or obstruct the sight of the driver while operating the vehicle, or if he does not have a full view of the roadway, are not allowed anymore,” announced Land Transportation Office (LTO) chairman Edgar Galvante in a briefing yesterday.
The road safety measure lapsed into law last July 21, 2016 when former President Benigno S. Aquino failed to sign the measure before he left office. The change in administration following the May elections and the crafting of implementing rules and regulations has delayed its implementation.
The law covers all private and public vehicles, including agricultural machines, construction equipment, motorcycles, tricycles, pedicabs and carriages.
Violators will be fined P5,000 for the first offense; P10,000 for the second offense; P15,000 for the third offense plus suspension of license; and P20,000 for the third offense plus suspension of drivers license. On the fourth offense, the erring driver will pay a fine of P20,000 plus a revocation of the driiver’s license.
Under the law, drivers are only allowed to use the hands-free functions of the gadgets, such as speaker phones, provided that these do not block their line of sight.
Only motorists responding to emergency situations like crimes, accidents, calamities, as well as ambulances and fire trucks shall be excused from the penalties.
“But in this prohibition, our primordial objective is not to impose penalties but for the welfare of the public…The government wants to ensure the safety of drivers, riding public and also the pedestrians,” Galvante said.
“Any moment that the driver holds his phone instead of the steering wheel, can cause accidents. We don’t have to wait for that. It’s what we are trying to prevent with this law.”
Galvante advised drivers of ride-hailing services like Grab and Uber, to pull their vehicles aside if they must use traffic and navigational applications. “So you would not be apprehended, park your vehicles where you would not obstruct other moving vehicles,” he said.
Operators of public utility vehicles such as jeepneys and buses shall also be held liable if their drivers are caught violating the law. “They will be the ones to pay the fines and be penalized,” warned Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) board member Ronaldo Corpuz unless they prove that they exercised diligence in supervising their driver.
Besides the LTO, enforcers from the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG), Metropolitan Manila Development Authoritym (MMDA) and local government units will be deployed to apprehend erring drivers.
During its implementation, the LTO will be conducting public information campaigns for six months to make drivers more aware of the existing law.
Victor Nunez, the MMDA legal and legislative affairs staff, said traffic enforcers who have been deputized by the LTO will issue citation tickets to violators today. There is no need for drivers to surrender their driver’s license.
Nuñez admitted traffic enforcers will have difficult time spotting violators driving heavily tinted vehicles.
He said officials of the MMDA, LTFRB and LTO will meet with tint manufacturers to learn about the optimum tint grade for cars.
“We will sit down with tint manufacturers to understand the technicalities and specifications of vehicle tints and better enforce the law,” said Nuñez.
High definition cameras of the MMDA’s Metrobase which can monitor lights from devices inside heavily tinted vehicles will also be utilized in enforcing the Republic Act 10913.
Senior Supt. Norberto V. Babagay of the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) said they will be lenient to motorists on the first day of driving law’s implementation. The deputized enforcers will not apprehend but only warn drivers who are still unaware of the new road law.
He advised motorists using traffic and navigation app and maps to park their vehicles aside before using their gadgets.
“Motorists caught in traffic are also not allowed to use their gadgets. We advise them to stop at emergency bays first,” said Babagay. (With reports from Emmie V. Abadilla, Charissa M. Luci and Ellson A. Quismorio)