No texting while driving, new law states

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Don’t text and drive – if you don’t want to face hefty fines.

A bill that penalizes motorists who use mobile phones and other electronic gadgets while driving a vehicle has lapsed into law, after former President Benigno Aquino III did not sign or veto it before he stepped down from office on June 30.

It lapsed into law on July 21, 30 days after Aquino received a copy of the law, the House Committee on Transportation told CNN Philippines Tuesday.

Republic Act 10913 or the Anti-Distracted Driving Act penalizes motorists who engage in distracted driving while driving or while stopped by a red traffic light on the road.

Under the new law, “distracted driving,” is defined as “using a mobile communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication or to make or receive calls,” and “using an electronic entertainment or computing device to play games, watch movies, surf the Internet, compose messages, read e-books, perform calculations, and other similar acts.”

Violators face a fine of P5,000 for the first offense, P10,000 for the second offense, P15,000 and a three-month suspension of driver’s license for the third offense, and a fine of P20,000 and revocation of driver’s license for succeeding offenses.

Drivers of public utility vehicles, school services and common carriers with “volatile, flammable or toxic materials,” and drivers who commit distracted driving within a 50-meter radius from school premises face a heftier punishment: P30,000 and suspension of driver’s license for three months.

The law will also hold liable operators of PUVs and commercial vehicles along with the offenders themselves if they fail to prove that they exercised diligence in the selection of supervision of the drivers they hired.

However, it exempts drivers who will use their mobile phones for emergency purposes such as contacting law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and fire departments. Motorists using their phones while driving an ambulance, fire truck, and other vehicles providing emergency assistance are likewise exempted.

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The Land Transportation Office (LTO) is tasked to write the law’s implementing rules and regulations within 60 days of its effectivity.

Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution states, “The President shall communicate his veto of any bill to the House where it originated within thirty days after the date of receipt thereof; otherwise, it shall become a law as if he had signed it.”

The law will take effect 15 days after its publication in at least two newspapers of general circulation.

Congressman Romeo Acop, one of the authors of the House version of the bill, said the law is “due for publication,” but he could not give any specific date on when it will be published.

Distracted driving a growing threat

The 2015 World Health Organization Global Status Report on Road Safety said distracted driving is a serious and growing threat to road safety.

It said drivers talking on a mobile phone are four times more likely to get into an accident because they are unable to stay in the proper lane and they tend to have a longer reaction time.

The report also said texting considerably reduces driving performance and places inexperienced drivers at a great risk.