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Text and drive no more

Ian Alfredo Magno

DUBBED as the text messaging capital of the world, the Philippines is home to millions of mobile phone users who highly consider texting as among the basic necessities of daily life. Numbers don’t lie. And with such a very high turn-out, texting has become so entwined with our interpersonal relations, business transactions and professional engagements, so to speak.

In fact, texting has become so crucial that it even sort of “re-shaped” the way evidence is appreciated in judicial courts.  For instance, a simple text message is now considered as an ephemeral form of communication, which may be admitted in evidence to prove a case in court, depending upon certain circumstances.

On the other hand, Congress deemed it wise to regulate texting, and the use of mobile phones in general, when it passed into law Republic Act No 10913 otherwise known as the Anti-Distracted Driving Act.

Basically, the law says, “Don’t text and drive!” Nonetheless, there are certain details that are worth looking into if only to avoid receiving that citation ticket from your friendly neighborhood traffic enforcer.

Below is a brief rundown of handy information–which could spare you a buck or two–about this new regulation:

1) What acts are prohibited while driving?

  • composing/reading/sending a message, receiving calls, making calls, and other similar acts using a mobile communications device
  • playing games, watching movies, surfing the net, reading e-books, performing calculations using an electronic entertainment or computing device

2) Are such acts allowed while stopping at a red light?

  • Still, they are not allowed.

3) What gadgets are allowed?

  • gadgets with hands-free function like earphones (provided it is not used to listen to music), speakerphones, microphones (provided the gadget is not placed on the vehicle’s dashboard or steering wheel)

4) Can I use google maps, waze and other GPS apps?

  • Yes, provided the gadget does not obstruct the driver’s view. When searching for alternate routes, the driver must pull over to the side.

5) What motor vehicles are covered?

  • public and private vehicles
  • agricultural tractors, graders, rollers, backhoes, payloaders, cranes, bulldozers, concrete mixers, bicycles, pedicabs, habal-habal, trolleys, kuliglig, wagons, carriages, carts, sledges, chariots whether animal or human-powered (so long as they are operated or driven in public highways or roads)

5) What motor vehicles are not covered?

  • vehicles that are not in motion (except those which are momentarily stopped at a red light)

6) Who are exempted?

  • a motorist using a mobile phone for emergency purposes in cases of a crime, accidents, bomb or terrorist threat, fire or explosion, or when personal safety and security is compromised
  • a motorist using a mobile phone while operating an ambulance, fire truck and other vehicles providing emergency assistance (provided it is in the course and within the scope of his/her duties)

7) What are the penalties?

  • 1st offense, fine of P5,000
  • 2nd offense, fine of P10,000
  • 3rd offense, fine of P15,000 and suspension of driver’s license for three months
  • after 3rd offense, fine of P20,000 and revocation of license
  • jeepney drivers, taxi drivers, bus drivers found to have committed distracted driving within a 50-meter radius from the school premises shall be penalized with a fine of P30,000 and suspension of license for three months

8) Are operators of public utility vehicles liable for violations committed by their drivers?

  • Yes, unless he/she could prove that he/she has exercised extraordinary diligence in the selection and supervision of his/her drivers

The law took effect on May 18, 2017. Hence, text and drive no more.

(Ian Alfredo T. Magno is a lawyer based in Cagayan de Oro. E-mail: ianalfredom@gmail.com)


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