Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mobile devices and driving: What you need to know about changes to Road Traffic Act from Feb 1

SINGAPORE - As of Feb 1, it will be illegal for drivers to hold any type of mobile device while driving. Previously, only calling or texting someone on a mobile phone was barred.
On Sept 8, 2014, changes to the Road Traffic Act were passed into law and a wider range of mobile devices, as well as heavier penalties for offenders, was added to the Act.
The changes were prompted by a 20 per cent rise in the past two years in the number of summonses for using a mobile phone while driving - from 2,938 in 2012 to 3,572 in 2013.
Here's what you need to know about the changes.

1. Mobile devices
Anyone caught using and holding a mobile device while driving can be found guilty of committing an offence. To be specific, mobile devices are any hand-held equipment which are designed or capable of being used for telecommunication. This means phones as well as tablets.
2. As long as you are using it, you can be charged
It is no longer just talking or texting that will get you in trouble. The new changes include surfing the web, visiting social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and downloading material. The law applies to using and holding a device while driving, including when the car is stationary at a red light.
3. Okay if the device is mounted
The amended law applies to drivers holding a device. It is not an offence to use the mobile device if it is mounted on a holder.
4. Penalties
First-time offenders can be fined up to $1,000 and/or jailed for up to six months. Repeat offenders face up to $2,000 in fines and/or up to 12 months in jail.
5. What about wearables?
Wearable technology such as the Google Glass and smart watches are not covered in the amended law. But the use of such devices could be classified as inconsiderate driving, an offence which carries up to a $1,000 fine and a six-month jail term.
Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli commented on this during the amendment of the law in parliament on Sept 8, 2014, saying: "We will continue to monitor the situation... and study the practices of other jurisdictions as they evolve to deal with (new) types of smart devices."
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