The required use of facemasks in private vehicles has been the talk of the town lately.
Specifically, motorists are questioning why it's needed, especially if all occupants come from the same household. More importantly, some are wondering why violators were slapped with a heavy Reckless Driving violation along with a hefty fine. But first, let's rewind the clock a bit.
According to the Land Transporation Office's (LTO) Memorandum Circular 2020-2185 released last year, Article III, Section 4-b states that “All drivers and passengers of private and government vehicles must wear face masks at all times.” If you're caught not wearing face masks while driving with other passengers, you'll be slapped with a fine and cited a Reckless Driving violation. Repeat offenders will even have their driver's license canceled.
Now, after speaking with LTO Executive Director Romeo Vera Cruz last year, the face mask rule doesn't apply if you're driving alone. However, it applies even if there are just two of you in the vehicle, seated apart. It doesn't matter if the other passengers you have are your wife, husband, parents, or even kids. Even if you all live in the same household, as long as there's more than one person inside the vehicle, face masks are mandatory. Otherwise, enforcers will flag you down and issue a violation.
So why is the violation for not wear facemasks in cars reckless driving? It all comes down to the Department of Justice's (DOJ) definition of the term. In an advisory published in 2011, the DOJ defines “Reckless Driving” as “the act of operating a motor vehicle without reasonable caution considering the width, traffic, grades, crossing, curvatures, visibility and other conditions of the highway and the conditions of the atmosphere and weather, or so as to endanger the property or the safety or rights of any person, or so as to cause excessive or unreasonable damage to the highway.” Not wearing a mask technically “endangers” others inside the vehicle, even though you're not literally driving dangerously on the road. As such, the corresponding violation then is reckless driving.
It's quite a hassle, but that's one of the government's way of curbing the spread of the virus. So remember, if you're driving alone, no facemask is needed. But if you have passengers, everyone is required to wear a facemask. The last thing you'd want to experience is being flagged down, fined, and receiving a Reckless Driving violation due to not wearing any face masks.
Hopefully, the LTO can amend the facemasks rule in private vehicles for those living in the same household especially with the new child seat law in place.