I am a daily commuter from Cavite to Manila, using the public utility vehicles (PUVs). These PUVs plying this route have a two-way radio affixed near the dashboard of the vehicle where the drivers would communicate to the other drivers plying the same route. They all belong to an association, which determines the situation of the traffic, location of each driver and vehicle and the queue in their terminals.
One time, I boarded a PUV going to Paliparan, Cavite and when we were traversing Macapagal Avenue in Parañaque City, the driver was also busy calling or talking to other drivers in the area, asking for the situation of the traffic ahead. He was holding the speaker of the radio on his right hand while his left hand was on the stirring wheel. When we reached a certain intersection, the vehicle almost hit a crossing pedestrian and my head almost hit the window. Is there any law that was violated by the driver?
The driver is liable under Republic Act (RA) 10913 or An Act Defining and Penalizing Distracted Driving. Distracted driving under Section 4 of this law is defined:
“Subject to the qualifications in Sections 5 and 6 of this Act, distracted driving refers to the performance by a motorist of any of the following acts in a motor vehicle in motion or temporarily stopped at a red light, whether diplomatic, public or private, which are hereby declared unlawful;
(a) Using a mobile communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication or to make or receive calls, and other similar acts; and
(b) 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.”
Mobile communications devices are electronic communications equipment such as, but not limited to, cellular phones, wireless telephones, two-way radio transceivers, pagers and other similar devices capable of transmitting, receiving, or both, of encrypted data and/or signals through wireless electronic or any other similar means (Section 3 (e), Id).
In your case, the act of the driver in talking to other drivers through the radio communication device and holding the speaker with his right hand and with the other hand at the stirring wheel falls squarely under letter “(a)” of the abovementioned enumerated unlawful acts. The only instance where the driver will be absolved from the said offense is when he can communicate with the use of a hands-free function or similar device where the driver can make or receive a call without holding the communication device, and the hands-free device does not interfere with the line of sight of the driver, which is in accordance to Section 5 of the same law.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.