EDITORIAL - Driving under the influence
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - June 30, 2013 - 12:00am

Stories of people finding ways to avoid detection for drug use have proliferated since the early days of implementation of mandatory drug testing for a driver’s license. Drug abusers simply underwent the equivalent of detoxification, laying off prohibited substances for several days before applying for a driver’s license. Yet the requirement for drug testing remained, becoming a profitable venture for those contracted to carry out the tests for the Land Transportation Office.

Now that a new law has scrapped the tests, the government must make sure a more effective scheme will be in place to discourage people from using drugs while driving. The problem is real and has often proved fatal. Too many deadly accidents involving public buses and cargo trucks have been traced to drivers who took drugs to stay awake or keep up their energy especially for long trips. Because this problem kept cropping up, the drug testing became a requirement for obtaining a driver’s license.

The weaknesses of the requirement became evident early on. Vehicles, especially public buses, continued to plunge into ravines on winding mountain roads as individuals high on drugs drove at breakneck speed. Often, the drivers died with their passengers.

Republic Act 10586, or the law against driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, aims to promote driving while sober. This law is a welcome piece of legislation. As in any law, however, RA 10586 is only as good as its implementation.

There should be no sacred cows: the wealthy and powerful who are let off with a slap on the wrist are likely to continue posing a threat to public safety. Those tasked to implement the law should be given the necessary equipment and training, especially in ensuring that they will not be held liable for violating civil liberties in the course of doing their job. Fear of facing a human rights complaint – especially if the threat is hurled by the rich and powerful – will be a major hindrance to the success of this campaign.

Vehicular accidents have claimed thousands of lives in the past decades. For road safety, much depends on the person behind the wheel. A driver must be free of the influence of drugs and alcohol. RA 10586 must be effectively enforced.

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