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Ma sets DUI death target of less than 300

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that he hopes the death toll from drunk-driving incidents can be reduced to less than 300 this year, adding that the government should work harder on the issue.

During the Kuomintang (KMT) Central Standing Committee's weekly meeting, Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said 376 people died due to drunk-driving incidents in 2012. Lee said this was a 14.35-percent decrease compared to 2011, in which 439 people died from such incidents.

Ma said the statistics for last year show one person died every day due to drunk driving, and each incident meant a family was devastated. “We as the government feel ashamed about not working hard enough on the issue,” he said.

The government should adopt effective measures to reduce the number of such incidents, Ma said, adding that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is working on a proposed amendment concerning drunk driving. He called on the MOJ, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) and the Department of Health to work together on the issue.

He said he hopes any final amendment would raise the criminal charge for drunk driving, noting that once a driver knows the penalty at hand, they may avoid driving when intoxicated.

Ma responded to critics who have called his proposal to detain drunk drivers in police stations too strict. Ma said preventive detention does not violate the driver's human rights; it only forbids the driver from controlling the steering wheel. Ma said drunk driving cannot be stopped without strict laws.

He said he hopes the MOI will increase enforcement of anti-drunk driving regulations over Chinese New Year, such as random breath checks. He noted this is especially pertinent as during the holiday, people may attend occasions which involve drinking alcohol. He added that if the government prevents one traumatic drunk driving incident, then at least one family will not be destroyed.

Ma said when he was the mayor of Taipei City he cracked down on drunk driving, with very thorough and strict policing. Ma said even he was stopped and checked by the police several times.

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