Drunk driving now faces stiff penalties

If you plan to drink alcohol or take drugs and then drive, don't take the chance. You'll only put your lives and those of other road users at risk.

In a bid to avoid this, President Benigno S. Aquino III has signed a new law imposing heavier penalties on drivers caught under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving.

Republic Act No. 10586, the "Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013," seeks to promote safe and responsible driving as well as curb motor vehicle accidents.

"Pursuant to the constitutional principle that recognizes the protection of life and property and the promotion of general welfare as essential for the enjoyment of the blessing of democracy, it is hereby declared the policy of the State to ensure road safety through the observance of the citizenry of responsible and ethical driving standards," the law read.

"Toward this end, the State shall penalize the acts of driving under the influence of alcohol, dangerous drugs, and other intoxicating substances and shall inculcate the standards of safety driving and the benefits that may be derived from it through institutional programs and appropriate public information strategies," it added.

The new law states that offenders who have not caused any physical injury or homicide shall be fined from P20,000 to P80,000 and face three months imprisonment.

If the DUI (driving under the influence) of alcohol or drugs results in injuries, the penalty will be a fine ranging from P100,000 to P200,000 and imprisonment from three months to 12 years. Driving under the influence that lead to homicide, on the other hand, shall be fined from P300,000 to P500,000 or imprisonment from 12 years to 20 years.

The non-professional driver's license of violators will also be suspended for 12 months for the first conviction and perpetually revoked on the second conviction. Professional driver's license, however, will be revoked immediately upon first conviction.

RA 10586 also allows mandatory alcohol and drug test of drivers involved in accidents that lead to injury or death. A driver who refuses to undergo such tests will be penalized by confiscation and automatic revocation of driver's license.

Law enforcement authorities are also empowered to conduct field sobriety, chemical and confirmatory tests on persons suspected to be driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The apparent indications that may compel such tests are drivers involved in overspeeding, weaving, lane straddling, sudden stops, swerving, poor coordination or the evident of smell of alcohol in a person's breath or signs of use of illegal drugs.

If a driver fails in the sobriety tests, the law enforcement officer will test the driver's alcohol level by using a breath analyzer. If driver is believed to be under the influence of drugs, the officer will bring the driver to the nearest police station for a drug exam.

The Land Transportation Office will also conduct random terminal inspections and quick random tests of public utility drivers.

Persons applying for drivers' licenses will also have to complete a course on safe driving and consequences of driving under the influence. Professional drivers renewing their licenses must also undergo drivers' education.

To effectively implement the new law, the LTO and the Philippine National Police are authorized to acquire breath analyzers and drug-testing kits to be utilized by law enforcement officers and deputized local traffic enforcers.

Training seminars will also be conducted for the law enforcers and deputies on Funds for the acquisition of equipment and training of personnel will be sourced from LTO's special road safety fund.

The LTO is authorized to deputize traffic enforcers from the PNP, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and cities and municipalities to enforce the new law.

With the help of local government units, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) has also been directed to conduct nationwide information campaign about the new anti-drunk and drugged driving law.

The law, signed last May 27, takes effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette or in two newspapers.