The battle against drunk driving | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

The stories are tragic.

In just the past few weeks, we’ve seen headline after headline about horrific car accidents that have resulted in multiple deaths.

The fatalities are young— teenagers, students, all gone much too soon.

The news reports leave one wondering. Why did it happen? Was alcohol involved? Could it have been prevented?

Leading cause of death

According to Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD, the lead author in a recent study about teenage drunk driving and driving laws in the US, “Motor vehicular accidents are the leading cause of death for young people ages 16 to 20.”

Their study shows that implementing stricter laws against teen drinking and driving are effective in decreasing the number of alcohol-related vehicular accidents involving teens.

Certain countries and states employ the Graduated Driver Licensing System (GDLS), which limits the freedom of new drivers, allowing them to get used to driving in low-risk environments before giving them full liberty to take the wheel. Instead of letting them jump from a student’s permit to a full driver’s license like new drivers in the Philippines could, individuals are given a probationary license that requires supervision and restricts their ability to drive.

In Australia, there are restrictions for drivers under 25. Those who carry Queensland provisional licenses are not allowed to drive a car with more than one passenger younger than 21 who is not an immediate family member from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

In the US, different states have different laws, although there are minimum federal requirements for state graduated licensing laws.

In Hong Kong, it doesn’t matter how old a new driver is, they need to follow restrictions for a minimum of 12 months. They are not allowed to exceed 70 kilometers per hour even if the speed limit is higher and they cannot drive on the overtaking lane on highways. Violations will result in an extension of the restricted period and severe violations and drinking before driving will render the license void.

Government efforts

While our system is different, the government is making efforts to curb this problem as well. In 2010, Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo co-authored a bill that aims to penalize drunk driving. Offenders will be fined at least P5,000 (up to P20,000) and will get their licenses suspended. Repeat offenders could get their licenses revoked.

Last year, the Makati City government approved an ordinance that will impose stiffer penalties on drunk driving. On top of fines and/or imprisonment, vehicles of motorists caught driving while under the influence of liquor or drugs can be impounded.

More recently, the MMDA also announced efforts to decrease the number of drunk-driving accidents in the country by expanding random alcohol testing on the roads using breathalyzers.

But while it’s good that the government is taking steps in penalizing offenders, there should also be a greater effort to prevent teenage drunk driving.

Establishments like bars, restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores should be stricter in not selling and serving alcohol to minors. In the US, even adults get carded—why shouldn’t the same be done here?

Last year, Camarines Sur Rep. Dato Macapagal Arroyo filed the Anti-Underage Drinking Act of 2011 that prohibits minors from drinking alcohol. If the bill is passed, offenders will be required to perform community service. Establishments that give minors access to alcohol will be penalized. They will be fined P10,000 for the first offense. A second offense will result in a fine of P50,000 and their license will be revoked.

But ultimately, policing underage drinking and driving should start at home. Parents need to take a more active role in making their children understand the dangers of drunk driving.

We asked parents to weigh in on the issue. What are their thoughts on drunk driving? What can be done to prevent teenagers from driving while under the influence of alcohol?

Parents speak up

“My husband and I have a rule never to drink when driving. When we go out to have a drink, we don’t bring a car. I’m so against drunk driving. It’s very irresponsible to drive when one is drunk. I demand for our driver not to drink the night before he goes to work. We fired a driver in the past because we caught him drinking on a Sunday. Yes, we’re that strict because the driver takes our children to and from school. We don’t want a driver with a hangover driving with our children as passengers. Drivers should not only think of their own safety but of other motorists as well. No matter how short the distance of the drive is, a driver who has taken alcohol should never drive. None of my kids are driving yet. But if ever, we would also impose that rule of “no driving when drunk.” I’m not sure if there’s a law here against drunk driving, but I know in other countries, motorists are very cautious never to get a drink when they’re driving. I have a friend who confiscated her son’s car after he got caught drunk driving. The government should deploy police at night or the wee hours to do spot checks on drunk drivers. This can be life-saving.”  —Andrea Trinidad Echavez, mom of three

“Drunk-driving is always a cause for worry. My sons may not drink and drive but it doesn’t mean that others don’t or won’t. I think parents and the government can only do so much. Can drinking be banned? That’s ridiculous! Drunk-driving isn’t only done by young people, even older people do the same. At the end of the day, everything boils down to a person’s sense of responsibility to himself and toward others. It’s the strength of his morals that will guide him—should I or shouldn’t I?” —Ruby Gan, mom of two

“When kids learn to take the wheel, it’s inevitable, they will seek the thrill of joyriding with their friends. I think I’d do what my father did. He used to take us on joyrides before letting us take the wheel when we were ready. We used to go to McDonald’s or we’d cruise around Ermita. I think he did that to lessen our curiosity when we’re out driving with friends.

“I will draw the line with my son drinking and driving, or even hitching a ride with a friend while out partying. Right now he is only 14—he can’t drink, he can’t drive. I’m very strict about that. That’s nonnegotiable. But he is going to be in college soon, and that’s really one of the things I fear! I cannot always be there to watch over him.

“When that time comes, I’m gonna go PBS on my son and provide him with information. We have to watch a show about drinking and driving together! Seriously!  —Mindy, mom of one

“If you’re drunk, don’t drive at all. Don’t even attempt to bring your friends home, baka sa langit pa maihatid.” —Arlene, mom of three

“It’s irresponsible, thoughtless, selfish, bordering on hedonism. There is nothing that even begins to justify putting the lives of other people at risk for the pleasure of a few or a lot of drinks.  If you have the means to drink and drive a car, then there is no reason you can’t get a designated driver. Or if you plan to drink, have somebody else be the designated driver.

“An information campaign is the best. As a parent, you have the obligation to inform your children, especially when you start teaching them how to drive. The government, on the other hand, should make the public aware of the alarming statistics associated with drinking and driving. In the information campaign, they should use stories and accounts of real people who have lost family members, loved ones as a direct result of drunken driving.” —Jenny Rockwell, mom of three

“Big no to drunk driving. Once intoxicated, you’ll never know when exactly you’d get hit and how the alcohol will affect you. Even if you’re a defensive driver, there are unavoidable accidents caused by other people out there. Police visibility and strict law implementation can only help so much. Don’t take chances, don’t dare take the risk of ending up in hospital, or jail and not being able to drink ever again.” —Alta, mom of one

“Some parents think it’s cool to let their kids drive before they’re supposed to, even without a license. “Diyan lang naman sa loob ng village,” they say. I don’t think it’s cool at all. Things can happen even a block from your house. My kids know the rules and they know I won’t budge. They will not drive before they’re supposed to and they will not drink before they’re supposed to. And when they start drinking and driving, they can never mix the two. I can be an easygoing dad but not when it comes to these matters. I believe it’s my responsibility to protect not just my children but also the people around them.” —Dave, dad of two

“When my brother started to drive, I noticed that my mom would not sleep until he arrived home. She’d be furious and livid. There would be times when he’d arrive home early in the morning and my mom could smell alcohol all over him. This didn’t stop until his car was confiscated by my dad. He may not have the car but it didn’t stop him from joining his friends in a drunken car ride home. Being the eldest of eight, I had the responsibility of helping my mom in matters such as this. It was not easy to talk him out of his opinion. He says Dad often comes home drunk.

“Decades later, I am now a mother of two and I am proud that this has not been my problem. Having a simple discussion with your children is the best way to reduce the chance of alcohol-related incidents.  Talk to them about drugs and alcohol.  This should be done consistently.  This is not a one-time conversation but an ongoing one that should start at a young age.

“I remember gathering some news clips and photos on car accidents involving drunk driving. I would call them to where the TV is and make them watch fatal accidents where drunk driving killed not only the driver but his passengers as well.  Your reason why drunk driving is not allowed should be clear. You need to present them with facts and how this affected lives. Help them realize the severity of drinking and driving. I didn’t stop at trying to talk them out of drinking and driving.  I would talk about thousands of people who die every year in car accidents at the hands of drunk drivers. That some of these drivers take their own lives, but more often than not, they take the lives of other innocent people on the road. The only time I stopped talking was when I heard them talking to their teenage cousin about drinking and driving.  This told me I did the right thing.

“Drunk driving or merely drinking and driving continues to plague our country with hundreds of casualties and severe injuries every year. Having an inexperienced teenage driver behind the wheel is a recipe for disaster. The government should condone this bad behavior. And underage drinking should not be allowed.

“In 2010, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo initiated the bill to criminalize drunk driving. House Bill 382 sought to declare driving while under the influence of alcohol or liquor a criminal act. PGMA gathered WHO studies and statistics to strengthen the bill.

“The government has already enacted Republic Act 4136 or the “Land Transportation and Traffic Code” but the law is insufficient in defining what constitutes drunk driving.  They said this new bill makes it clearer what constitutes drunk driving.

“Driving under the influence of alcohol should be punishable by law. Filipinos love to drink and drive, creating a culture of road violence that has been responsible for countless deaths, injuries, loss of property and mounting insurance claims. I believe a drunk driver is a potential murderer because alcohol and drugs impair faculties. Alcohol blurs one’s vision, makes you lose control and coordination, slows reflexes and increases drowsiness.

“There should be a sterner law that imposes not only a hefty fine and revocation of license but also prosecutes this act as a criminal offense even when there is no victim. This may sound funny, but I think driving under the influence of alcohol is similar to “illegal possession of firearms.” —Menchie, mom of two

(To be concluded)

What are your thoughts on drunk driving? What do you think can be done to put a stop to it? E-mail [email protected]

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