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Senate approves bill penalizing distracted driving

The Senate today approved on third and final reading five new bills, including a measure which sought to prohibit and penalize ‘distracted driving,’ or the practice of making phone calls and other activities while driving a motor vehicle.

The five pending legislation were passed by the Senate before both houses of Congress reconvened as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) on May 30 to proclaim the winning presidential and vice-presidential candidates in the May 9 elections.

Senator Serge Osmeña, acting chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Services, said Senate Bill No. 3211, known as the Anti-Distracted Driving Act, aimed to safeguard the public “from the ruinous and extremely injurious effects of vehicular accidents.”

“While the State recognizes the vital roles of information and communications technology in nation-building, the State also takes cognizance of the inimical consequences of the unrestrained use of electronic mobile devices on road safety as to cause its regulation,” Osmeña’s bill said.

Once passed into law, the measure would make ‘distracted driving’ unlawful, which was defined by the bill as performing any of the following acts while driving a vehicle in motion or stopped in red light: “using a mobile communications to write, send, or read a text-based communication or to make or receive calls,” along with “using an electronic entertainment or computing device to play games, watch movies, surf the Internet, compose messages, read e-books, perform calculations, and other similar acts.”

Under the bill, stiff penalties would be imposed on violators, including a fine of P15,000 and suspension of driver’s license for individuals upon committing their third offense of the proposed act.

However, the proposed bill would not apply to people “using mobile phones for emergencies, including calls to a law enforcement agency, healthcare provider, fire department, or other emergency services, agency or entity,” or to people “using mobile phones while operating vehicles providing emergency assistance,” such as ambulances or fire trucks.#