Last Friday, three innocent human beings lost their lives when a drunk driver plowed into them with his pickup truck in Koronadal City. The 25-, 23-, and 21-year-olds were aboard two motorcycles, and had everything to live for when one selfish individual decided to do something that would rob them of their future.
Those three souls are sadly just the latest victims of behavior that shockingly is still way too socially accepted around here. It really is time to change that, so please help me get one simple message out to everyone loud and clear: If you drink and drive, you’re an a**hole.
The Philippines has a pretty strict anti-drunk-driving law, but as with so many rules and regulations in this wonderful country, the law is one thing and everyday life is another. As a result, way too many people still get behind the wheel after they have consumed alcohol. Drunk driving is an activity that is not only illegal in most countries, but also socially unacceptable.
If I were to stagger out of a pub in Britain or a bar in Germany and walk toward my car with the key in my hand, either bar staff, friends, or, indeed, complete strangers would very likely try to stop me or alert the police. Yet, I bet if you did the same thing in many bars in Metro Manila or outside the capital, not only would you not be stopped, but most people wouldn’t even bat an eyelid.
If you’re now angrily thinking, “Frank, that’s simply not true, and of course I would stop someone from drunk driving if I had the chance,” then congratulations: You’re one of the good guys.
Problem is that there are still too few good souls like you and too many boozy drivers. As we are fast heading into the Ber months and countless Christmas parties, get a load of this statistic.
Just last December, at least 84 people died and 1,732 were injured due to road traffic collisions involving drunk drivers. And the LTO Drunk and Drugged Driving Enforcement Team responded to around 1,500 incidents, of which a staggering 1,356 involved drivers who had too much alcohol.
There are many other frightening statistics I could quote here, including one that suggested almost one-third of the 12,000 people who die on Philippine roads every year do so because alcohol was involved.
In the end, every single life lost because of drunk driving is one too many. There are exactly zero reasons why anyone should drive while intoxicated. None. Nada. Zilch.
But there are many ways in which you can ensure that a night out doesn’t end in tragedy. Plan ahead and have a designated driver, the one person in your group who stays sober and drives you home. Take a taxi or a Grab car home if you can, or otherwise arrange transport for when you have a few too many.
If you can afford to get hammered, you can afford to get home safely—because the price you will pay when it goes wrong is infinitely worse than a few hundred pesos for a taxi.
While authorities are already trying to do more—including giving the LTO more resources to go after drunk drivers—what I really think needs to happen is a shift in the way driving under the influence is perceived by society.
It must become as utterly socially unacceptable as it already is in many other countries, and there are various ways in which we can achieve this.
One is by making it clear to friends and family what we think of the activity, but another approach involves the authorities. Just bringing in laws is not enough, and gentle campaigns, like “The Power of No,” don’t seem to hit the spot hard enough.
Maybe a little shock tactic would help. Police and agencies like the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority should put on displays in malls showing mangled wrecks caused by drunk drivers.
This is routinely being done elsewhere, and seeing what the reality of alcohol-caused death and destruction looks like can have a profound effect on people.
Hard-hitting adverts on TV and social media can be used to further drive the point home, but ultimately, it’s down to us all to do our part. VISOR readers are a smart bunch who like to do what’s right—of that I am quite sure.
So, please help to get the word out and reduce the number of drunk-driving incidents on our roads. Please make everyone realize: Friends don’t let friends be a**holes. Friends don’t let friends drink and drive.