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MHA proposes stricter laws on mobile phone use while driving

Zafirah Salim | Aug. 5, 2014
Under the proposed amendments, drivers who hold and operate any function of mobile communication devices, including tablets, will be committing an offence.

In a TODAY (Singapore daily) report dated August 5, 2014, the Singapore Traffic Police cited that the number of summons issued to drivers using their mobile phones while driving has steadily increased over the years-from 2,817 in 2011, to 2,938 in 2012, and 3,572 last year.

In fact, in the first half of this year alone, 1,761 summonses were issued, which is slightly higher than the 1,700 issued in the same period last year.

To curb these figures from rising, and to promote safer driving, the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has proposed tighter regulations regarding the use of mobile phones while behind the wheel.

Currently, laws under the Road Traffic Act prohibit motorists from holding their mobile phones and communicating with another person, such as sending text messages or taking a phone call, while they are driving.

MHA's proposed changes assert that drivers who hold and operate any function of mobile communication devices, including tablets, will be deemed as committing an offence. This includes the prohibition of checking of emails, as well as browsing through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any similar social media platform.

According to the same TODAY report, an MHA spokesperson said that under the proposed amendments, the offence would apply if the person is holding a mobile communication device in at least one hand, and operates any function of the device while driving. This would however mean that the proposed amendments will not extend to the use of mobile communication devices that are mounted on a holder.

Other changes proposed in the Bill include making drivers more responsible road users. For example, drivers who knock into parked vehicles or structures will be expected to provide their particulars to the owners even if no one had witnessed the accident. Besides that, vehicle owners who fail to provide the Traffic Police with the particulars of the driver who committed certain traffic offences will also be presumed to be responsible.

Additionally, the Traffic Police is also seeking to be allowed to direct poor drivers to go for a new safe driving course-a move that will be especially significant for new drivers. Drivers who have accumulated half or more of their maximum allowable demerit points will be eligible for the corrective training course, should they choose to sign up for it. Those who pass will have three demerit points removed from their records.

This means that rookie drivers on probation who incur six or more demerit points in their first year of driving-the maximum they can incur is 12 points-will receive a lifeline if they pass the course.

Another proposed amendment involves requiring work pass holders who need to drive as part of their job to obtain a local driving licence within six months from the issued date of their work passes.

These are part of efforts to ensure both local and foreign motorists are familiar with Singapore's traffic rules and conditions, and are sufficiently competent to drive on our roads, said the MHA.


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