For ages and ages now, using your phone/mobile communication device while driving has been illegal. However, it appears that Malaysians are continually flouting the rules (as governed by the Road Traffic Rules 1959 and the Road Transport Act 1987), with the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) now confirming a change for those who commit one particular offence.
In a statement on their official Facebook page, PDRM has issued a statement which confirms that guilty offenders of Rule 17A, LN166/59 will be subject to fines of up to RM1,000, or jail time of up to three months. Second-time offenders are subject to fines of up to RM2,000, and/or jail time of up to six months.
According to PDRM, the change comes as many Malaysians continue to ignore the law on smartphone usage while driving, despite the clear consequences.
“Masyarakat sendiri sedar bahawa penggunaan telefon bimbit semasa menunggang atau memandu kenderaan menjadi antara penyumbang berlakunya kemalangan jalan raya.”
As such, the offence of using a phone while driving a vehicle is now considered a non-compoundable offence. This means that offenders will be required to make a court appearance before a magistrate to settle individual cases, as opposed to the compounds that are usually paid to avoid such appearances.
For some context, compoundable offences are usually considered to be “lighter” in nature. Offenders can choose to either pay a fee to compound the offence (the saman you usually pay for minor road offences), or make an appearance before a magistrate to make their case.
Other non-compoundable traffic offences include driving without a valid driving licence, or driving in the emergency lane without a valid reason. For compoundable offences such as running a red light or making an illegal U-turn, you’ll have the option to pay a compound if you aren’t keen on making a court appearance.
Regardless, using your smartphone while driving isn’t simply about compounds, fines, or even jail time and court appearances. We all bear a responsibility to ourselves and other road users to maintain certain safety standards, and using a smartphone while driving certainly contravenes that. If you need to use navigation apps such as Waze or Google Maps, install a mount, and set your journey/destination details before you embark on your drive.