Parliament: Use of tablets while driving to be a crime under amended Road Traffic Act

A driver is seen using his mobile phone while driving along Orchard Road. From February next year, motorists caught driving while holding and using any sort of mobile device will be flouting the law. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIU
A driver is seen using his mobile phone while driving along Orchard Road. From February next year, motorists caught driving while holding and using any sort of mobile device will be flouting the law. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIU

SINGAPORE - From February next year, motorists caught holding and using any sort of mobile device while driving, will be flouting the law.

"Using" will also go beyond just calling or text messaging - as provided for by existing law - but also surfing the Internet, visiting social media platforms, and any other function. The new rules under the broadened Road Traffic Act, which was passed in Parliament on Monday, will apply not just to mobile phones, but also to all mobile communication devices such as tablets.

Eight Members of Parliament spoke in support of the Bill, calling it a step in the right direction, but questioned if it went far enough. They asked why other potentially distracting devices, including handheld game consoles and smartwatches, were not included in the revised Act. They also questioned why the use of mobile devices when they are mounted on the dashboard or steering wheel, for instance, was not made an offence.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said: "We have deliberately decided to take a measured approach in tightening the rules on handphone driving. But we will continue to monitor the situation after the new changes come into effect and study the practices of other jurisdictions as they evolve to deal with other types of smart devices that are being developed."

Other changes passed under the Act on Monday promote responsible road use.

Vehicle owners who fail to furnish driver information to the Traffic Police within 14 days, for offences such as speeding or beating a red light, will be presumed to have committed the offence.

Drivers will also be required by law to take reasonable steps to provide his particulars to the victim in the event of an accident when nobody is around. For instance, if a driver hits another car at a car park, he must leave a note with his particulars.

Do the new measures go far enough in making our roads safer?