A law banning motorists from using electronic devices is now in force.
The Anti-Distracted Driving Act (RA 10913) prohibits motorists from checking their phones or other devices, even if they are waiting at a red light.
The law covers every type of vehicle, ranging from diplomatic limousines to ox-drawn carts.
The law defines “distracted driving” as:
Using a mobile communications device to write, send, read a text-based communication, or to make or receive calls, and other similar acts. Using an electronic entertainment or computing device to play games, watch movies, surf the internet, compose messages, read e-books, perform calculation, and other similar acts.”
The act emphasises that all motorists should pull over before engaging with their devices — unless they have a genuinely hands-free system. Exceptions have been made for the emergency servcies, and those calling them.
Motorists may also use mobile phones for navigational apps, but the devices must be mounted on the dashboard, and not obstructing visibility.
However, Edgar Galvante of the land transportation office said motorists should “err on the side of caution”.
“My reminder to them is that if they need to use their gadgets, pull over. Even if you stick that anywhere in the car, if you’re looking at it anyway, your attention is distracted. That is a violation.”
Mr Galvante also reminded drivers using navigation apps to set their routes before setting off, and pull over if they need to change them.
Violators will be fined 5,000 pesos for the first offence, 10,000 for the second, 5,000 with a three-month licence suspension for the third, and 20,000 and an absolute driving ban for the fourth.
In addition, people driving ‘public utility vehicles’ (PUV) will get a 30,000 fine and a three-month ban for any offence near a school.
Alberto Suansing, Secretary-General of the non-governmental Philippine Global Road Safety Partnership, said the law was a good way to promote road safety in the country.
“Although there is no data yet on crashes caused by distracted driving, I believe there will be a big reduction because of this law,” he said.
“Studies have shown that operating a phone is the second-leading cause of distracted driving, with driving while sleepy or under the influence of alcohol or drugs being number one,” he added.