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Texting while driving?
Police will get you

Need to check your BlackBerry messages on the go? Think again. The Jakarta Police are stepping up their drive to catch motorists using their cellular phones while driving.

Head of the City Police Traffic Division Sr. Comr. Royke Lumowa said Wednesday that the police
had started enforcing the traffic regulation by issuing tickets to motorists caught using mobile phones.

“Using your cellular phone while driving poses a grave danger as this could lead to accidents,” Royke told reporters.

He said that police on the street would not only focus on motorists talking on their cell phones.

“We will be strict in enforcing the law, not only on people talking on their phones but those texting and those typing on their smartphones,” he said.

Police, however, will allow motorists to talk on cell phones using the hands-free device.

“But it is more preferable to just completely switch off your phone while driving,” Royke said.

The 2009 Traffic and Land Transportation Law has no specific ban on the use of cell phones on the road, but police said they would charge drivers for violating Article 283, which prohibits activities that could distract drivers from focusing on the road.

Violation of the article carries a maximum sentence of three months and a Rp 750,000 (US$75) fine.

As Jakartans become increasingly fixated with their smartphones, it is common to see motorists driving while using them.

Penchants for multitasking on the go, motorcyclists also navigate the city’s traffic while talking on their cellular phones or checking messages.

A survey published by the New York Times on July 18, 2009 shows that drivers have on average a 0.24-second slower reaction while they are texting.

A 2008 survey conducted by the University of Utah shows that 48 percent of 1,500 drivers believe that using cell phones while driving is the most dangerous distraction on the street.

A 2003 Harvard University study estimated that cell phone distractions caused 2,600 traffic-related deaths every year, and 330,000 accidents result in moderate or severe injuries.

A report from the Zebra Jaya traffic management operation, conducted between Nov. 8 and Dec. 1, recorded 416 accidents with 61 fatalities, 139 injuries and a total loss of nearly Rp 846 million.

During the operation, 92,282 drivers were caught violating traffic regulations. Tickets were issued to 78,882. Motorcycle riders are the biggest offenders with 66,555 violations. Drivers of public transportation vehicles registered 18,443 violations and drivers of private vehicles were at 9,076 violations.

Last year, the police recorded 6,896 traffic accidents with 1,016 fatalities and 7,000 injuries. Last year’s figures were a 7.5 percent increase from 6,393 accidents reported in 2008.

Angelina, a motorist who only gave her first name to The Jakarta Post, said she supported the police’s new initiative and agreed that motorists caught driving while using their cell phones should be issued tickets immediately.

But the police’s new initiative will not dissuade her from talking on her cell phone on the go.

“I only need to be smarter now that the police will issue tickets if they see me using my cell.

“I need to be more aware about where the traffic police are and drop the call when I see them,”
she said.

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