Drivers caught smoking in Taiwan while driving will soon be fined

Drivers caught smoking in Taiwan while driving will soon be fined

TAIPEI - Motor vehicle drivers caught smoking while driving on busy roads will soon be fined NT$600 (S$25), according to a package of amendments coming into force next year aimed at raising the penalties for various offences affecting traffic safety.

Amendments to the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act passed in the Legislative Yuan after their third reading yesterday.

The sequence of actions involved in smoking while driving, such as lighting a cigarette, exhaling smoke and holding the cigarette, are all punishable acts under the new rules. The critical point is whether others are affected by the acts, according to the text of the amendment, which is most applicable to busy roads.

The precise date the new rules will go into effect will be set after a joint assessment by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Ministry of the Interior. The two ministries will submit a recommendation to the Executive Yuan, and the date is estimated to fall sometime in the first half of 2015, according to the Department of Railways and Highways.

The dangers that the department had in mind when designing the measures include ash floating into the eyes of pedestrians, the United Evening News reported. People who are near a smoker may be burned by the sparks flying off a cigarette, and traffic safety may be impacted by the smoke. The department made the new rules after receiving several complaints by the public.

The penalties are to only be applied when other people are in close proximity. The idea behind the law is to protect other road users.

Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Ting Shou-chung, a sponsor of the amendment, said that "many people have complained about cigarette ash floating into their eyes while driving, but they have had no recourse."

Further included in the amendment is an exemption of responsibility for bus and taxi operators if passengers fail to fasten their seat belts. Business operators are currently subject to fines if passengers they are carrying do not fasten their seat belts. The amendment states that operators are free from responsibility if they have asked their passengers to comply with the seat belt law.

Fines on the Rise

The fine for double parking is to be doubled, from the current bracket of between NT$600 and NT$1,200 to a flat rate of NT$2,400. The Department of Railways and Highways explained that people have complained about the congestion caused by double parking near amenities such as hospitals and schools.

Detachment of a vehicle's components while driving on the road is another offence that saw its penalty more than double, with the current fine ranging between NT$600 and NT$1,200 increasing to a bracket of NT$3,000 to NT$6,000. Tires worn down below the safety requirement of 1.6 mm are to fall under the same penalty. Amendments to this category were proposed by KMT Legislator Chiang Huei-chen.

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