Texting while driving continues despite law

A “No-No”, according to the Anti-Distracted Driving Act

MORE than two months after Republic Act 10913 or the Anti-Distracted Driving Act lapsed into law, it has hardly changed the bad habits of many Filipino drivers.

Many are seen making calls and texting while driving.

Joselle Segismundo, 25, an employee of Land Transportation Office, is knowledgeable about the law. But bad habits die hard. She said it’s her instinct to at check her phone whenever there’s a notification. “I am used to it. It’s really hard to stop. It’s an instinct that when I hear my phone, I have to check it. Maybe it’s important, or there’s an emergency or I need to update someone,” she says.

“I know it’s wrong. I know it’s very risky, but I still feel the urge to really check my phone,” she adds.

A study published in Accident Analysis and Prevention journal in 2010 discovered that all drivers are actually well aware of the catastrophic circumstances of distracted driving, but 90 percent of them are still doing it.

Text addicts

Clinical psychologist Camille Garcia said texting is a form of addiction.

“It’s like saying a gambler constantly checks his cards or does slots if he has money. And whatever happens, if he wins or not, he will still do gambling,” Garcia explains.

“In fact, it can create an anxiety if [the person] will not text and as the tension gets higher the greater there is a need to respond to the text or call,” she adds.

A study commissioned by AT&T states that the experience of texting releases dopamine, a neurochemical in the brain that makes people happy. The resulting experience creates a general feeling of happiness and is associated with the satisfaction addicts get from giving into their addictions.

Provisions of Anti-Distracted Driving Act

The Philippines has recently joined the growing numbers of countries that penalize distracted driving.

Republic Act 10913 or the Anti-Distracted Driving Act defines distracted driving as “using a mobile communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication or to make or receive calls,” and “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” – even while in the middle of standstill traffic or stopped by a red traffic light.

The Anti-Distracted Driving Act penalizes the likes of Joselle of P5,000 for the first offense, P10,000 for the second offense, P15,000 and a three-month suspension of driver’s license for the third offense, and P20,000 and revocation of driver’s license for succeeding offenses.

Drivers of public utility vehicles, school services and common carriers with “volatile, flammable or toxic materials,” and drivers who commit distracted driving within a 50-meter radius from school premises face a heftier punishment: P30,000 and suspension of driver’s license for three months.

The law also holds operators of PUVs and commercial vehicles liable if the drivers they hired commit such violation.

However, it exempts drivers who will use their mobile phones for emergency purposes.

A data from the Metro Manila Accident Recording and Analysis System shows that there was a total of 95,615 road crashes last year. Of these incidents, 536 resulted into death and 16,444 injuries.

The contribution of mobile phone use to crashes, however, is unknown in the Philippines, as data on mobile phone use is not routinely collected when a crash occurs.

There are over 2,000 crashes due to “human errors,” while there are 93,220 which causes are not determined.

Myra Nazarrea, project manager of the MMDA-Global Road Safety Project, believes that these incidents have something to do with distracted driving. “Considering that this is very huge number, most probably, these are crashes that involve texting while driving here because enforcers do not exactly record,” she says.

“Perhaps I think the people do not know that there’s a law,” Nazarrea surmises. She notes that drivers in Metro Manila can easily get away withviolating the law because of authorities’ “apparent lax implementation.”

Simple text can turn deadly

It’s not as if Filipinos drivers do not know the dangers of texting while driving.

A Facebook post about a tragic love story caused by texting while driving that happened in the United States has been shared by over 215,000 people around globe, including the Philippines.

It’s the story of Bob Armlin, 29, who died in a car crash on August 4, 2015 – just a day after he rekindled his romance with his high school sweetheart, Susan Shain, an American writer and traveller.

Post – accident report showed that Bob’s vehicle veered onto the opposite side of a two-lane carriageway. No one was in the car with him, but Susan and his family believe he was distracted by his mobile phone.

“All I know is that he often used his cell phone while driving, and there’s not another plausible reason he would’ve crashed at 11 a.m. on an empty road,” she says in an email interview.

“[The incident happened] just minutes after we parted, “ she said.

The two had a long-distance relationship. Bob lived in Kentucky and Susan was living in San Diego, soon to move to St. Petersburg for a new job. They communicated primarily through phone: via calls, texts and Snapchat – even while driving.

On the New Year’s Eve of 20, grief-stricken Susan shared her emotional story on Facebook, asking others to follow a resolution of not using mobile phone while behind the wheel.

“That means no texting (not even voice-to-text), no snapping (even if you are really good at singing to the radio), no fiddling with the music (set it and forget it), and no looking up directions (if you need GPS, use a dash mount and enter your destination while parked).”

“Why? Because it’s not worth it. It wasn’t worth the love of my life – it’s not worth any lives,” she said.

(This story , which first came out in The Manila Times, was produced under the Bloomberg Initiative Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the World Health Organization, Department of Transportation and Communications and VERA Files. #SafeRoadsPH )

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