Drinking and driving, a volatile mix that threatens road safety

It is no secret that driving under the influence of alcohol raises the chances of road accidents, increasing the risks of harming motorists and other road users.

Road accidents and alcohol consumption have long been intertwined, leading to loss of lives, injuries, and damage to properties.

Although spikes in the number of road accidents happen during holidays, the Department of Health’s (DOH) data from 2023 in the Ilocos Region shows that the figure has been rising regardless of the occasion.

The DOH Health Emergency Alert Reporting System (HEARS) shows a total of 236 vehicular accidents in Region 1 reported from January 1 to November 7 last year, an 11 percent spike from a figure of 213 cases in 2022.

Of this figure, Region 1 recorded 43 deaths, with La Union having recorded 18 deaths, followed by Ilocos Norte with 13, Ilocos Sur with 10, and Pangasinan with 2.

Photo by Chester Carlo Trinidad/PIA La Union

DOH Regional Director Paula Paz M. Sydiongco says that driving under the influence has been steadily increasing, while also mentioning other poor driving practices that lead to accidents.

“Every day we are witness to fatal and disabling road accidents and it is extremely increasing daily. And most often are due to reckless and speedy driving, not obeying or following traffic rules, poor maintenance of the vehicles, drunk and driving, driver fatigue,” Sydiongco said.

Data on road crashes from the DOH show that most of the road traffic deaths involve males, representing 84 percent of the total figure recorded in Region 1.

The DOH advises people that if drinking is unavoidable, especially during holidays and other occasions, it is crucial to refrain from driving or at least entrust the driving to someone sober.

“If you tend to drink, don’t drive anymore. It is not your own life that you’re saving but also those of others like pedestrians and other road users,” Sydiongco adds.

DOH-1 Regional Director Paula Paz Sydiongco reminds motorists to refrain from driving when they are under the influence of alcohol to protect their lives as well as pedestrians and other road users. (Photo credit: DOH-Ilocos Center for Health Development Facebook Page)

The benefits of sobriety 

A mind free from alcohol-induced intoxication functions properly, improving crucial brain functions such as attention, memory, and problem-solving abilities.

Drivers free from alcohol have better response and anticipation of potential hazards while on the road, greatly reducing the chances of accidents and saving lives and property as a result.

To drum up interest, information, and awareness on driving and sobriety, the DOH conducts regular awareness campaigns, implementing activities such as the upcoming ‘Biyaheng Kalusugan for Road Safety’ in La Union on May 23-24, 2024 and the ‘World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims’ conducted every November.

It includes promotive activities such as road safety basics, and preventive activities such as 45 night driving safety tips, 10 things to check before driving, free health consultation, and processing of student permit and vehicle registration.

These campaigns enjoin the support of agencies and communities as active partners in the pursuit of drunk driving reduction and the promotion of responsible driving practices.

Practicing driving safety 

Aaron Villanueva, a jail officer of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) regularly plies the Agoo-San Fernando City route to get to and from his work.

Avoiding getting intoxicated and driving defensively while on the road have become second nature to him.

He always reminds himself of the importance of arriving safely for his personal benefit and his family’s, as well as other motorists and pedestrians.

“It is important to drive with a clear mind so as not to disturb others. Always drive defensively to keep ourselves and others safe on the road,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva adds that due to the nature of his work and the two hour-long travel to and from his work, coherence is important given that there are times when the night catches up to him on the road.

“It’s difficult to drive at night because the visibility on the road is reduced, that’s why you should always have a clear mind and avoid drinking,” Villanueva said. (JCR/AMB/MJTAB/CCMT, PIA La Union)

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