Drink and Drive No More

In law school, the easiest way to unwind after a heavy day of case reading and recitations is to go drinking. Simple and easy, just head on to Draft at Powerplant after class or drink with friends on a Saturday night. There is always the risk though of having one too many drinks and feeling tipsy. That becomes a problem when you have to drive home, but risk it anyway thinking you are sober enough to drive. Well, it might be the right time to change that way of thinking.

Last May 27 2013, President Aquino signed into law the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013 or R.A. 10586. Basically, R.A. 10586 is a penal law making it unlawful for any person to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, dangerous drugs and/or similar substances.

The Philippine National Police – Traffic Management Group (PNP-TMG) recently reported that from 2004-2007, the percentage of drunk driving accidents in the Philippines ranged from 1%-2% during those years. The percentage seems insignificant but the number is possibly grossly undervalued because policemen do not have the tools to know if a driver is drunk during an accident. More likely, drunk driving has contributed to far more accidents than what the statistics show.

Under said law, a person is considered driving under the influence of alcohol if the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level has reached a certain level as determined in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR). Under the IRR, for private motor vehicles the level is .05% while for trucks, buses, motorcycles, and public utility vehicles (i.e. Taxi) the level is anything above .0%

Are policemen at liberty to flag down any driver and subject them to random alcohol and drug tests? No. The law requires the enforcer to have probable cause to believe that the driver is actually driving under the influence. Probable cause is manifested by overt acts such as over-speeding, sudden stops, swerving, or evident smell of alcohol in a person’s breath. Importantly, the driver doesn’t need to be committing a traffic violation for policemen to have probable cause.

Once pulled over, the driver is subjected to sobriety tests such as the One-Leg Stand and Walk-and-Turn. If the driver passes the sobriety tests, the policeman will let the driver off unless he is guilty of a traffic violation. It is only when the driver fails the tests will the policeman be required to determine the driver’s BAC. If the driver’s BAC level is above the allowed limits, the driver will be arrested and his vehicle impounded. The situation is different for dangerous drugs because in such case the policeman will immediately bring the driver to the nearest police station for a drug screening test, and if necessary, a drug confirmatory test. In other words, no field test is needed if the policeman thinks the driver is on drugs. It is also important to note that drivers involved in vehicular accidents resulting in loss of life or physical injuries are required to undergo alcohol and drug test.

As for penalties, if the driver refuses to undergo the alcohol and drug tests, then the policeman has the right to confiscate the driver’s license subject to automatic revocation. Also, the penalty for violating the law always involves imprisonment (minimum of 3-months), a fine (minimum of P20,000.00), and suspension or permanent revocation of driver’s license. Take note, any violation of the law will result in imprisonment and a fine.

Overall, the law has plenty of good things on it because it seeks to increase road safety by curbing instances of driving under the influence. However, the law has certain drawbacks.

First, it is a powerful tool for corruption in the hands of policemen. Policemen are in a better position to demand bribes because the law carries very stiff penalties. It is reasonable to think that drivers would prefer to just bribe policemen than go to jail and incur a criminal record. If drivers are willing to bribe just to prevent their license from being confiscated, what more if there’s a threat of imprisonment?

Second, why are mandatory test required only in vehicular accidents resulting in loss of life or physical injuries? Why not also when the accident involves loss to property? There is no reasonable explanation for the difference especially considering the law’s purpose isn’t served by such distinction.

Lastly, the penalty is too harsh because any violation of the law, even drunk driving that doesn’t result in any injury to persons or damage to property, is punishable with imprisonment. The penalty should take into account the injury done. If the driver violates the law without causing any injury or damage, the penalty should be minimized to confiscation and suspension of the driver’s license.

So, what to take from all of this? Do not drink and drive, unless you want to go to jail. When you go drinking, be sure to have a plan to get home safely or, at the very least, be with friends you trust who will take care of you.

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