The Wild East staff
A heads-up for all foreigners who love driving recklessly — Taiwan cops are finally getting savvy
After a spate of recent high-profile cases involving deaths of innocents, Taiwan police are cracking down on drunk driving (or drink-driving if you prefer). This includes reining in foreigners under the influence, who have until recently enjoyed a certain marginalization and therefore immunity in matters of traffic violations. This is mainly due to the customarily poor English-speaking ability of most police officers, who in the past found dealing with foreigners ‘tai mafan‘ – too much trouble.
But things are different now. One British expat who was pulled over on his way home a few weeks ago by an English-proficient cop was asked if he’d take a blood test. “Stupidly I said ‘okay’,” he recounts. “I found out afterwards you can actually refuse to take a blood test. Although the fine for that will likely be stiff” — but not as bad as what turned out to be a DUI in Taiwan.
“I should have asked to go to the loo and drunk a lot of water first”, he commented, as “that would have perhaps brought my blood alcohol count down to an acceptable level.” Police have to allow you to drink some water if you request it.
“I didn’t think about this at the time, because I was so surprised the officer spoke English so well, but I should have just spoken Spanish to him. That would have been my get-out-of-jail-free card in this case,” the foreigner added.
Instead he got a .045 BAC reading, surpassing the .025 limit. Using this online BAC calculator, if he would have put off driving a while or had a couple glasses of water or cup of coffee before heading off, he might have been all right.
True, as one observer points out: “Sure it stings to get a steep fine, but a nasty accident would sting a lot more, take my word on this!”
Another laowai said the bust was probably a strong reminder in the long run, and: “There but for the grace of God go I”!
The driver’s blood count turned out to be .045, and his scooter was immediately confiscated and he had to take a taxi home. The next day he went into the Traffic division in Taipei to find out the fine: 30,000nt (about US$1000) to get his scooter back. Plus 6,000nt (about US$200) to avoid a one-year suspension of driving privileges. After about .060 penalties increase further.
Another expat, who was trying to drive home absolutely hammered and registered .076 BAC, got his scooter confiscated and spent the night in jail sobering up. He is still has a pending court case, where he could be slapped with a 150,000nt (US$5000) maximum penalty.
The fines might be steep to some, but getting intoxicated drivers off the road seems to be a wise strategy, and it’s one that will save lives — including the lives of those who might not feel they are driving under the influence.