Education, not humiliation, for drunk drivers

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RC Rodriguez, 28, is one lucky guy.

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He has figured in more than one road crash while driving under the influence of liquor and he is still alive.

Once, after imbibing two bottles of one-liter beer, he was driving at 100 kilometer per hour when his tire blew up and his car hit a post. He survived without any serious physical damage.

Like many drunk drivers, Rodriguez believes it was not his driving that caused him to crash. He says there were times when it was a mechanical error. Or there were times when a spur of the moment decision triggered by something made him feel he wanted to hit a car.

“Yes, I have been under the influence of liquor but I was not intoxicated. I knew I could drive,” he insists, adding that any difficulty that happened “was really an accident.”

In a news conference after the May 9 elections, Duterte warned: “If I caught you [driving drunk], I would strip you naked on the highway. I would call the media.”

“Do not drink and drive. Once you do that, you’ll know that you might kill a person,” he said.

Duterte said he will also urge Congress to pass a law preventing drunk drivers from seeking probation instead of serving prison time.

The light punishment for drunk driving has been cited as a reason why people like Rodriguez refuse to reform.

Rodriguez was once caught driving drunk when his headlights were “blind.” But he insisted that he was not intoxicated, he simply did not notice the violation.

He gave a traffic enforcer P1,500 and he was allowed to drive on without any ticket.

The Philippines has an Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013 (Republic Act No. 10586). Section 12 enumerates the penalties for drivers found to have been driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, dangerous drugs and/or other similar substances.

Rodriguez could have been jailed for three months and fined P20,000 to P80,000 if the traffic officer had enforced the law.

The penalty goes higher if the offending motorist causes physical injuries (from P100,000 to P200,000) or even homicide (P300,000 to P500,000), along with imprisonment and revocation of license to drive.

Data released by the Metro Manila Accident Recording and Analysis System (MMRAS) shows that in 2015, there were 262 road crashes in Metro Manila resulting in 536 deaths.

Of those who died from road crashes, 235 of them were pedestrians, 232 were drivers and 69 were passengers.

Details of drunk drivers’ involvement in the crashes are not available but Myra Nazarrea, project manager of the Metro Manila Development Authority-Global Road Safety Project (MMDA-GRSP), said drunk driving is likely one of the factors.

“If you will analyze, the number of pedestrians killed is higher compared to the drivers and passengers so most likely there is an aspect of drunk driving here,” Nazarrea said.

She admits that there is a need for the strict implementation of the law and clarification of the allowable blood alcohol content (BAC).

For non-professional drivers, BAC should not exceed 0.05 percent. Professional drivers and drivers of public utility vehicles, however, must have no trace for alcohol at all – anything higher than 0 percent is subject to penalty.

Rodriguez, who claims to have a high tolerance of alcohol, laments the standard limit. “It’s up to the person to know if he can drive or not,” he argues.

In its Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave a dismal one out of 10 rating in the enforcement of anti-drunk driving law in the Philippines.

Nazarrea admits that the enforcers’ capability to catch drunk drivers is limited.

“The apprehension can only be done if there is a traffic violation. And if there’s a suspicion [that the motorist is under the influence of alcohol], that’s the only time the apprehending officer would test if there was an indication that the driver was drunk,” she explains.

Nazarrea declined to comment of the President’s warning to strip drunk drivers but she expects many people will oppose shaming offenders.

Rodriguez agrees there is no need to humiliate his kind. The government, he stressed, should intensify an education campaign on the law.

“Not all drunk drivers are impaired,” he says.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) urges Duterte to stick to the law and not degrade people.

“We don’t condone those kinds of punishment to violators of the law,” says Banuar Falcon, officer-in-charge of the CHR’s International Obligations Monitoring Division. “We have enough penalties for drunk drivers. Humiliating people is not a way to go about it.”

MMDA Chairman Emerson Carlos said traffic enforcers should have no physical contact with violators and are not allowed to ask drivers to alight from their vehicles while the apprehension is taking place.

 Michael Joe T. Delizo

(This story was produced under the Bloomberg Initiative Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the World Health Organization, Department of Transportation and Communications and VERA Files. #SafeRoadsPH )

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6 Comments

  1. Station the implementors of the law along the nightlife streets and tell the drivers about the law on drunk-driving. Prevention first before accident.

  2. TESTING for intoxication should be mandatory, and administered on drivers immediately after a car crash, especially in the case when someone is killed or injured in a hit-and-run.

    No driver should be excused fleeing the scene of such crime, or they may detoxify and flush-any alcohol/drugs out of their system, then show up sober at the police station days later to give his version of the accident.

  3. It boils down to the most undisciplined drivers in the world. Yes! that is what Filipino drivers are.

    If all Filipino drivers will only experienced what to be pulled over and hear what the arresting officer will tell you to do thru mic.

    The arresting officer will not get out of his car until another police car arrived behind him.

    The only things you’ll asked to produced are license, car registration and will asked you if insured or not.

    Any traffic violation will be very expensive and will merit an increase in your insurance premium.

  4. Time will come they will just “Terminate” their existence in this world. Maybe, then, Maybe they will quit getting on behind a wheel if they have at least a shot of alcohol in their system..

  5. All together implementation of traffic rules is a must. The culture of handing money to get away with traffic ticket and enforcer taking the bribe is unacceptable. How to stop this culture require decipline.

  6. In the United States , DUI , driving under the influence of

    liquor or drugs is a criminal influence pinkish able by imprisonment and revocation of drivers license.