Taiwan clamps down on drunk driving

TAIWAN_(S)_0719_-_guida_in_stato_di_ebbrezzaThe government of Taiwan launches awareness campaign against drunk driving. But above all passes law imposing hefty fines and prison sentences for those who cause fatal accidents. Taipei (AsiaNews) – A massive four month advertising campaign on Taiwanese TV and internet seems to have hammered home the message to drivers according to data released by the Police Headquarters in Taiwan on traffic deaths caused by drunk drivers. Compared to last year the number was reduced significantly: 137 compared to 203 in the first half of 2012.

But the government has decided to go further. In fact, the advertising may be insufficient if laws and police checks don’t follow suit. Last month, on June 13 the alcohol limit was further lowered: a maximum 0.25 milligrams per liter for the breath test, and a maximum of 0.05 percent for the blood test.

Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan has reiterated that punuishment will be enforced for offenders be they Taiwanese or foreigners. No excuses will be tolerated, not even “cultural” excuses that claim:  “everyone drinks in my country”. Those who are caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, may end up in jail or pay fines of up to 200 thousand Taiwanese dollars (about 7 thousand U.S. dollars).  Those who cause fatal accidents face from three to ten years in prison.

After a period in which the rules were rather vague, now the law is among the strictest among regional nations. “We do not want to leave anything to chance – says Sergeant Zhang, head of one of the New Taipei traffic police units – when you’re under the influence of alcohol and you start driving, you do not realize you will not be able to control the vehicle, which can cause serious disasters. This is no joke”.

The government has also fixed a “hole” in the legislation, in fact, for a couple of inconsistent rules in the old system it was possible to refuse to do a breath test or blood test, by paying 90 thousand Taiwanese dollars (about 3 thousand U.S. dollars) to escape heavier fines or even prison.

In 2012 there had already been an improvement in the number of infringements, with a total of 124 thousand fines for driving while intoxicated, but 376 people lost their lives. It is believed that the new regulations will drastically reduce and maybe even eliminate road deaths caused by drunk drivers.

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