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The Tech loopholes of the Anti-Distracted Driving Law

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By Mark Isaiah David

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Amid the public’s barrage of complaints and outpouring of objections to the Anti-Distracted Driving Act (ADDA), various agencies – the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), the PNP Highway Patrol Group (HPG), and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA)– all agreed to defer implementation of the law, at least until its guidelines have been clarified.

This does not mean, however, that we have seen the last of the ADDA. If we were honest, we’d acknowledge that the goal of the said law is worthy: road safety trumps whatever ‘hassle’ we might experience while driving gadget-less. The problem is in the uncertainty in implementing the guidelines of the ADDA. More so, since people asking the transportation agencies for clarification tend to get different answers from said agencies.

Before the law is resurrected like a Phoenix from the ashes, we should take note about what drivers CAN do under the Anti-Distracted Driving Act. While the Act prohibits the use of mobile devices (your phones, tablets, portable game consoles, even calculators) as a means of communication (texts,calls,etc.) and for playing games, Internet browsing, and watching movies while driving a motor vehicle, drivers can:

Utilize Hands-free Tech

Drivers can make or receive calls, provided that he/she is using hands-free equipment. If your gadgets are paired to a Bluetooth earphone, put the earphone on your ear only when you’re actually about to use it. Remember that your gadget must not interfere with the driver’s line of sight or operation of the vehicle – so make sure your phone isn’t precariously placed anywhere where it could fall off when you turn.

Make calls during emergencies

Naturally, drivers are allowed to make or take calls in case of emergencies. If there is a crime, accident, bomb or terrorist threat, fire or explosion, feel free to contact the authorities (take note: not just anyone). If there are instances when you’d need immediate medical attention or when you feel that your personal safety and security is compromised, go ahead and use your device. The ADDA isn’t an unreasonable edict – safety, as always, is paramount.

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Use Map Apps

If you’re like my father who is a self-confessed ‘ligawin’ (easily gets lost), your main concern is probably whether or not you could still use your traffic and navigation apps under the Anti-Distracted Driving Act. The answer is yes – on the condition that: a) you set your destination prior to departure, b) your gadget isn’t obstructing the driver’s view, and c) you’ll pull over to parking lots/emergency bays when you need to change destinations or find alternate routes.

In the same way, you can still use your dash cam (if you don’t have one already, do yourself a favor and remedy that oversight) if you place it directly behind the rear-view mirror. However,your dash cam must not have a viewing monitor that can obstruct the driver’s view.

Built-in Gadgets

If your car has a built-in gadget that blocks the driver’s line of sight (like some Mazda models), you can still use your car – if you’d believe the MMDA Twitter’s response to this same question posted on the internet. However, to avoid hassle from other agencies that might have a contrary opinion, it would be safer if you wait until a formal pronouncement stating that built-in gadgets are exempt is made to the public.

Use your Friends

It would be understandable if your biggest concern regarding the Anti-Distracted Driving Act is the utter boredom you’ll be subjected to when you’re stuck in unmoving traffic and you have no gadgets to distract you. But there are many things you can do to save your sanity without reaching for your smartphone. We actually made a list of things that can provide ample entertainment for you (http://2016.mb.com.ph/2016/08/24/about-actions-not-distractions) while you’re driving. But the best among these suggestions is to share a ride with a friend – not only does carpooling lessen our collective carbon footprint, it gives you an instant Waze operator/sounding board/car game competitor/sing-off rival. So find out if you have officemates that live along your usual route and organize a schedule. You’ll be thankful for the company when you’re dead bored and stuck on the road.

While the Anti-Distracted Driving Act is far from perfect, we must still follow all traffic laws whenever we drive. And like all laws, it pays when you know exactly what you can and cannot do according to the ADDA’s stipulations.

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