Education, not humiliation, for drunk drivers

RC Rodriguez, 28, is a one lucky guy.

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

One time he had two bottles of one-liter beer and was driving 100 kilometer per hour when his tire blew up and he hit a post. But he survived without any serious damage except on his pocket for  the repair of his car.

Drunk driver
This motorcycle rider was hurt when he hit two vehicles on Visayas Avenue, Quezon City during the wee hours of August 1, 2016. He admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol (Photo by Luisito Santos)

Like many drunk drivers, Rodriguez believes it was not his driving that caused the road crash.  There were times when it was a mechanical error.  Or there were times when it was a spur of the moment decision triggered by something that 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.”

If President Rodrigo Duterte would make good his warning to drunk drivers involved in road crashes, Rodriguez would not be so complacent. Or else he would undergo a humiliating experience.

In a press conference after the May 9 elections, the then president-elect thundered: “If I caught you [driving drunk], I will strip you naked on the highway. I will 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 the Congress to pass a law to prevent drunk drivers from seeking probation instead of serving prison time.

The light punishment for drunk driving could be one reason that there is no incentive for people like Rodriguez to reform. He was once caught driving drunk when his headlights were “blind.” He insists he was not intoxicated in that he simply did not notice the violation.

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

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 there  traffic officer not accept the bribe money and instead, 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.

A 2015 data released by the Metro Manila Accident Recording and Analysis System (MMRAS) shows that there are 262 road crashes a day. Of these incidents, 536 resulted into death: 235  pedestrians, 232  drivers and 69 were passengers.

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RC Rodriguez (Photo from his Facebook account)

Details of drunk drivers’ involvement on the crashes are not available but Myra Nazarrea, project manager of the Metro Manila Development Authority-Global Road Safety Project (MMDA-GRSP), explains, “If you will analyze, the number of pedestrians killed is higher compared to thedrivers and passengers so most likely there is an aspect of drunk driving here.”

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

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

Rodriguez, who claims to have high-tolerance in alcohol, laments the standard limit. “It’s for 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 will test if there is an indication that the driver is drunk,” she explains.

Being in government office, Nazarrea opts not to comment on the new President’s idea of parading those caught drunk driving naked but she expects  many people will  oppose shaming  offenders.

Rodriguez says there is no need for humiliation penalty. The government, should instead, 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 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 says 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.

 

This story, which appeared in The Manila Times, 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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