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The Culture of Drunk Driving

ALCOHOL and driving don't mix. But many Filipinos love to drink and drive, creating a culture of road violence that has been responsible for countless deaths, injuries, losses to property and mounting insurance claims.

Drunk driving has become a world menace. The World Health Organization lists road accidents as the "second leading cause" of death worldwide among the young aged 5 to 29. An estimated 40 percent of these accidents are attributed to driving under the influence of liquor or narcotics (DUI), or drunk driving.

The WHO says that road accidents cause 1.2 million deaths and 50 million injuries around the world each year. Some 480,000 of these deaths and 20 million of the injured are caused by drunk driving.

In the US no one is spared from arrest for drunk driving. According to records, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were charged with drunk driving in their younger days. Power, celebrity or wealth doesn't exempt any American from arrest, jail or driver reeducation.

Under the California Vehicle Code, for example, a driver can be convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A DUI case may be charged as a felony, meaning the penalty is at least 16 months when someone is injured or when the accused has had three or more DUI convictions.

In the Philippines, traffic authorities pay little heed to drunk driving as a major cause of road deaths. In an article, our motoring editor Vernon Sarne says that drunk driving doesn't figure in the top 10 traffic violations in the Philippine National Police scoreboard.

Normally, the police do not arrest anyone for drunk driving unless a victim dies or is injured. Traffic enforcers turn a blind eye when a government official or celebrity is involved, or when grease money talks.

Our Land Transportation Office imposes a fine of P2,000 for drunk driving. Road accidents resulting in death or injury make the driver liable for homicide or physical injuries through reckless imprudence. The accused, if convicted, is punished under the Revised Penal Code.

But the truth is that few drunk drivers are arrested, convicted and jailed. Nobody goes to a driving reeducation class, because our system has no such reform school.

A drunk driver is a potential murderer because alcohol and drugs impair faculties. Alcohol blurs one's vision, makes him lose control and coordination, slows reflexes and increases drowsiness.

Drunk driving should be governed by a sterner law that imposes not only a hefty fine and revocation of license but also prosecution as a criminal offense even when there is no victim. We cannot trivialize drunk driving. It endangers not only the life of the driver but also those of innocent people.

What The Other Papers Say

America's Silent War

FOR the past six years, America has fought battles on behalf of 12 million victims, in a conflict that employs combatants across the world. No, we're not talking about the war on terror. We're referring to the fight against modern-day slavery.

Last week, the US State Department released its annual Report on Trafficking in Persons, and is it a depressing read. In all of its diverse forms—from sex trafficking to forced factory labor to domestic enslavement—human bondage is on the rise. It's a perverse side effect of globalization: As ambitious, developing-country workers become aware of their wage-earning opportunities, many migrate to more developed countries, only to find themselves isolated, conned and abused.

The worst offenders don't surprise. Two axis of evil members—Iran and North Korea—make the bottom of the list, alongside other repressive regimes such as Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe. In Asia, Cambodia's prostitute-trafficking gangs, India's slave-labor sweatshops and Burma's conscription of child soldiers make repeat appearances in the report. A clutch of poor African states are on the watchlist, as are some surprisingly wealthy nations, such as Mexico and Israel.

It's a tribute to the Bush Administration's terrible public relations that America doesn't get more credit for slogging through this fight. Since 2000, Washington has spent more than $400 million to combat human trafficking. Every year, Foggy Bottom issues a Congressionally-mandated report to spur action among countries where de facto slave labor remains insufficiently prosecuted or even unacknowledged. The report, which ranks 149 nations in three tiers according to their compliance with certain human rights standards, has teeth, too: If nations don't improve their ranking, they risk US sanctions.

"These are not problems that can be solved in the short term," John Miller, director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, concedes. "But there has been marked progress in the past few years."
-Excerpted from The Asian Wall Street Journal

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