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Just enforce cellphone ban on drivers for now

THE Anti-Distracted Driving Act (ADDA), RA 10913, took effect last Thursday morning, May 18, but by noontime Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Officer-in-Charge Tim Orbos suspended enforcement of the act, in the wake of widespread disputes over the apprehensions.

The problem, it seems, was that enforcement people – the Department of Transportation (DoTr), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), the Highway Patrol Group, and the MMDA – were enforcing not only ADDA’s ban on the use of cellphones while driving or stopped in traffic.

They were also enforcing DoTr’s Joint Administrative Order 2014-01. This order banned a host of items most drivers tend to put on their dashboards, including toy animals and figurines. It also banned rosaries which many Filipino drivers attach to their rear view mirrors.

As may be expected, the ban on rosaries was loudly protested. Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Secretary General Marvin Mejia was joined by drivers who believed their religious freedom was being violated.

The ban on figurines and rosaries had been ordered by the DoTr in 2014, but it was never really enforced, probably because these banned items were not seen as distracting drivers. It is today’s cellphones which truly distract drivers when a call or a text comes in and the driver has to open it, momentarily removing his attention from the road ahead of him. The problem worsens when he has to text back.

This was the distraction RA 10913 wanted to stop, along with computing, and playing electronic games, reading e-books, and surfing the Internet on cellphones. Old figurines on dashboards and rosaries hanging from rearview mirrors do not distract drivers. Rosaries help to reassure some drivers and calm their nerves.

In the wake of the widespread complaints, enforcement of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act was postponed while the Implementing Rules and Regulations were straightened out. We suggest that the enforcers limit themselves to the ban on the use of cellphones, which is what is provided for in RA 10913. The other prohibitions under DoTr’s Joint Administrative Order of 2014 need not be included for now.