President Aquino recently signed Republic Act 10586, which penalizes persons driving under the influence of alcohol, dangerous drugs and similar substances with stiff fines and jail terms for violators.
It’s really about time we have a national law against drunk and drugged driving. In recent years, we have seen some terrible accidents caused by drunk and drugged drivers of all kinds of motor vehicles, including motorcycles, and yet how many of them went to jail or were punished, even if such accidents resulted in serious injuries, deaths and destruction to public and private property.
The random drug and alcohol testing of bus drivers that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) had conducted last Holy Week found a few bus drivers were about to drive their commuters to the provinces while under the influence.
That is a really scary thought especially when you think about how many actually escaped the random drug testing and how often bus and other public utility vehicle drivers actually drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol on a regular basis.
One bus driver, who was scheduled to drive to Bicol, tested positive for shabu, and another driver working for the Victory Liner in Pasay City tested positive for alcohol. In Cebu City, three bus drivers were found positive of using illegal drugs after the Land Transportation Office had done similar roadside random drug tests.
I do hope the MMDA could equally and efficiently enforce the Driving Under The Influence (DUI) Law.
As anyone knows, in this country, it is one thing to enact a law and it is another thing to enforce it. Even before RA 10586 was enacted there were already drunk driving ordinances in most cities, with penalties that include fines, suspension of one’s driving license and jail terms. But the enforcement of such ordinances have been very lax, if they are enforced at all.
Even traffic laws here are routinely flouted and when traffic officials try to enforce them, sometimes they even get beat up or harassed by irate and undisciplined motorists. Remember Philip Morris executive Blaire Carabuena, who bullied a traffic enforcer who accosted him for blocking an intersection? We have a lot of Carabuenas on our roads, and the government lets them keep driving.
So I hope the sobriety tests that would be conducted on drivers suspected of being under the influence would not lead to any untoward incidents.
Also, traffic laws here sometimes seems flexible, especially when there are government officials or other people of influence behind the wheel. Here, there’s always a good chance you won’t be punished for breaking traffic laws if you are somehow even remotely connected to the powers that be.
Many times those who are supposed to be enforcing or making the rules are the ones who routinely flout them, like policemen who ride their motorcycles without helmets.
The DUI law should be enforced equally among the citizenry. Equal enforcement would be a crucial factor in encouraging people to follow it. If even the so-called big people in society would be punished for DUI crimes, then more people would be encouraged to obey the law even when there are actually no enforcers to stop them and give them sobriety tests.
This principle should be applied to all traffic laws, be it observing the speed limit or wearing seatbelts or observing traffic signals. People will only comply when they know everyone will be penalized for violating traffic laws.
This is why in a previous column, I urged cities to install closed-circuit-television-camera-systems and use them not only to prevent crime and for traffic monitoring but also to make drivers follow traffic rules, especially when there are no traffic enforcers around.
Tickets against traffic violators can be issued using evidence from these cameras. There should be hefty pines, at least big enough that drivers will get the message: follow the traffic lights, or else.
Some people will complain, but hey, would you rather that we have accidents and loss of lives and property because of bad drivers who flout traffic rules?
You take away the human element and you take away corruption. Penalizing drivers will be done based on photographic evidence of the CCTV footage. Period. No negotiations.
Try it for a month and all motorists would have a heightened awareness of the law even when there are no police or traffic officers hiding behind trees or pillars, waiting to nab unsuspecting rule-breakers.
Again, the DUI law, like all laws, should be applied uniformly and equally to everyone. There must be comprehensive enforcement. Drivers should know that whoever they are if they are caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol they will suffer the stiff penalties.
We have become used to seeing laws violated and the perpetrators unpunished. That is why there is low public confidence in law enforcement. That is why there is no discipline on our roads. That is why our roads are so deadly.
A strongly enforced DUI law would surely lead to fewer alcohol- and drug-related accidents and fatalities and much safer roads. But if we seriously want to stop drunk and drugged driving we have to make sure there is relentless equal enforcement coupled with a serious information drive.