Motorists Using Handphone will be Fined RM300, says Malaysia’s Transport Minister. Isn’t this already a thing?

Automologist LING welcomes the “re-enforcement” of this rule and tries to abide by it... Today, my news feed was flooded with the ann...

Automologist LING welcomes the “re-enforcement” of this rule and tries to abide by it...

Today, my news feed was flooded with the announcement that Malaysian motorists who are caught using their mobile device while driving, without using some form of hands-free gadget, will be fined RM300 and will soon also start incuring Kejara demerit points. My immediate thought was: ‘Eh, isn’t this rule in place already?’ Just to make sure, I did a quick check (in other words, I Googled) and yes, indeedy—according to the Road Traffic Rules of 1959, Rules 17A, offenders can be fined a maximum of 300 ringgit, OR they could be fined in court for up to RM2,000 or face imprisonment of not more than six months, or BOTH. (Suddenly, RM300 and collecting “bad driver” points doesn’t sound so bad, ei?)

So, it would seem that like many other rules of the road in Malaysia, up until now it was merely a suggestion, with enforcement only taking place whenever it pleases the traffic police and JPJ (usually during the exodus of the festive season). Now, though, if Minister Liow Tiong Lai is serious about his announcement, which he made while speaking to the media yesterday at some (non-related) event, the traffic police will be cracking down on motorists who use their handphone. By the way, that includes while idling at a red light or in a traffic jam.

However, Liow says that it is acceptable to use navigation apps, such as Google Maps or Waze, but only if it is placed in a phone mount. But but...what if someone is fiddling with their Spotify playlist, or watching Youtube, or monitoring their Pokemon Go app as they hatch eggs (does anyone play PoGo anymore?). Can Mr. Policeman see, even with their canggih cameras, whether the motorist is using navigation apps or otherwise? So, at the end of the day, we can only hope that Malaysians will do the right thing while behind the wheel (HAH!).

I confess, I am guilty of using my phone while driving. There are always Whatsapp messages that I have to reply to immediately. I have changed my mind halfway through my journey and when Waze discouraged me to fiddle with it while in motion, I lie to it, again and again, telling it that I am a passenger. And that is despite me knowing full well the dangers of distracted driving, having written about it at length: -

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While the draft of this article was left to ferment inside my iPad (and the news got more stale), I made two separate 20-minute car trips and vowed to not touch my phone. It was HARD. I found myself absentmindedly reaching for the phone and discovered that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is real. But I did it. Work still waited for me to get to it, after I had parked somewhere safe. My friends didn't think that I had gone missing.The new cat video was still there for me to view. The world didn't stop revolving.

So, it is going to take some time...but I think we are all going to be better drivers with this "new" rule.


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