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07 June 2013

President Aquino passes Anti Drunk or Drugged Driving Act of 2013

Words by Leslie Sy | Artwork courtesy of naolito.com
 
antidrunk driving
It was on May 27, 2013 when President Benigno Aquino III signed into law Republic Act 10586 or more commonly known as the “Anti Drunk or Drugged Driving Act of 2013.” This will enable police and other law enforcement officials to pull over any suspected motorist, who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and perform field sobriety tests.
 
If the driver fails the test, he or she will then be required to take a breathalyzer test at the police precinct. But if the motor vehicle accident involves death and/or physical injury, an alcohol and drugs test will be required. And if found guilty, motorists can be fined up to a maximum of P500,000 with the possibility of permanent revocation of their driver's license.
 
Section 12 of Republic Act 10586 lists down the penalties of driving under the influence (DUI) as follows:
    1. If DUI did not result in physical injuries or homicide, the penalty of three (3) months imprisonment, and a fine ranging from P20,000 to P80,000.
    2. If DUI resulted in physical injuries, the penalty of three (3) months to 12 years imprisonment, and a fine ranging from P100,000 to P200,000.
    3. If DUI resulted in homicide, the penalty of 12 to 20 years imprisonment, and a fine ranging from P300,000 to P500,000.
    4. Confiscation and suspension of non-professional driver's license for 12 months for the first conviction and perpetually revoked for the second conviction. Confiscation and perpetual revocation of professional driver's license for the first conviction. The perpetual revocation of a driver’s license shall disqualify the person from being granted any kind of driver’s license thereafter.
 
While some are celebrating the new anti drunk driving law, I advise everyone to give it a careful and cautious review. At the heart of any law is the question if it can be enforced properly, correctly, and fairly. And in this part, the new law is already in trouble.
 
First, the best single piece of equipment for this law to be enforced is an alcohol breathalyzer. And yet, there seems to be no provision to widely equip law enforcement officers out on the field with these. Instead, the law requires alcohol breathalyzers to be available only at police stations and similar locations. Police officers end up solely relying on a “field sobriety test.”
 
Then, it needs to be mentioned that it's all too easy for a police officer to abuse their power when giving a “field sobriety test.” That's because the difference of passing or failing is solely based on the officer's subjective opinion. Although one can refuse this test, it means an automatic confiscation and revocation of their driver's license, so it doesn't really give them much choice in the matter. At this point, it's easy to see the potential of abuse where the police could intentionally fail a motorist so the driver could quickly settle the matter with a bribe amounting to a few thousand Pesos instead of incurring the full penalty.
 
Another thing is that the new law still does not specify a minimum blood alcohol level to declare a motorist legally drunk when using an alcohol breathalyzer. Worse, false positives have been known to happen, especially if you have used products containing alcohol such as cough syrup, cold medicine, mouth wash, and even some lip balms. Then, a season drinker can be perfectly fine with two beers while another could already be tipsy with the same amount so a field sobriety test does have its limitations.
 
It would help if the government can release a guideline on how much alcohol is considered safe and legal, so people could moderate their alcohol consumption to avoid being “over the limit.”
 
I'm afraid that the “Anti Drunk or Drugged Driving Act of 2013” might become another elaborate money-making scheme for government agencies involved and another burden for the average motorist to bare. If this law is to be properly and fairly enforced, the police should all be equipped with proper breathalyzers for the job. We shouldn't simply rely on personal judgment calls on the reason of lack of proper equipment. Any proper law should provide a method to properly enforce it, otherwise it will just be either a toothless law or another way to harass innocent motorists.
 
Read the full Republic Act 10586: Anti Drunk or Drugged Driving Act of 2013 by hitting the [link].