Latest legislation no substitute for zero tolerance on alcohol
The China Post news staffUnder new legislation that took effect last week, the maximum fine for drunk driving has been raised from NT$60,000 to NT$90,000. Those found guilty of driving under the influence (DUI) two or more times over a period of five years, and those who refuse to take breath tests are now subject to the maximum fine and will have their licenses revoked. But have these new amendments made any difference so far? Not really.
March 6, 2013, 12:34 am TWN
The National Police Agency reported yesterday 737 violations involving drunk driving over the last weekend. From March 1 to 3, police registered 95 recidivist (repeat) offenses, 34 cases of people refusing to take breathalyzer tests and 282 cases who were turned over to the law-enforcement authorities after being tested at more than 0.55 mg. A sad record.
There should be zero tolerance against drunk-driving. Any driver caught with a blood alcohol percentage higher than 0.0 should be subject to immediate license suspensions and heavy fines. Zero-tolerance laws have been criticised by people who believe that the regulations unfairly punish responsible drivers. However, in both Russia and Poland such policy has proven an effective measure.From the point when they were implemented, deaths and injuries due to car accidents have gone down.
According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), 371 people were killed in drunk-driving accidents in Taiwan last year. In other words, there was at least one death caused by drunk driving per day around the country last year. That is unacceptable.
“Drinking or Driving” is not a difficult concept to understand. If you want to drive don't drink and vice-versa, no matter your age. Is it truly that difficult for a couple or set of friends to have one person designated the responsible driver for an evening? Drinking, it should be noted, is not a prerequisite for fun. Furthermore, thousands of cabs drive the roads of Taiwan. They can get you and your loved ones home safely.
We strongly believe that a greater reduction to the drunk-driving limit will help save lives. Evidence shows that the DUI recidivist rate in Taiwan is as high as 30 percent. Drinking even one beer can lead people, no matter the age, to do ridiculous things when driving. If you drink alcohol, no matter the amount, driving should never follow — period.
For sure, the government recently revised the Criminal Code to impose heavier penalties. Offenders now face a maximum jail term of 10 years if their conduct results in death, up from the current term of seven years. The amendment also removes the detention clause and allows an imprisonment of up to two years and/or a fine of NT$200,000 instead. If the drunk-driving offence results in serious physical injuries then you may face one to seven years in prison, up from the existing six months to five years.
The problem is that the existing penalties for DUI are still too light and the deterrent effect is minimal for such behavior. With the new regulations, anyone caught with at least 0.55 milligrams of alcohol per liter of blood in breathalyzer tests or over 0.11 percent blood alcohol content will be arrested for a DUI immediately. But, does it mean that you can take your friends and family home under that limit? Really?