Two acts of two government officials caught our attention this week because it gave importance to the significance of drivers in road safety.
You’d probably say that’s an insignificant remark coming from me because the driver factor in road safety defines the saying — it goes without saying. But let us not make that side trip.
What is important is that there is government action directed at the driver of a motor vehicle, and his role in making the roads safer.
The first act was the announcement from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) that they will implement a stricter policy on the issuance of a driver’s license to a new applicant. That will include a 15-hour lecture series that will teach traffic laws, rules and regulations on the road, road courtesy, and other topics.
The second was a privilege speech of a representative urging the House to amend the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act to reinstate the mandatory drug testing for driver’s license applicants.
First, the new policy on the issuance of a driver’s license to a new applicant. LTO Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante said the new policy will require an applicant to attend the lecture series, and only after that will the LTO issue a student’s permit. That permit is a requirement for taking a course on driving from any accredited driving school or at the LTO Training Offices.
After the driving course, applicants must pass both theoretical and practical driving exams to be supervised by the LTO to be able to get a non-professional driver’s license. Those who want to apply for a professional license can only do so after at least a year from getting the non-pro license.
The old practice of “speeding up” from a student permit to a non-pro license after a month, and then applying for a professional driver’s license after six months will not be allowed, he said.
We can expect better drivers on the road after the lectures and the driving lessons. Those are the drivers who will benefit from the new license that is valid for 10 years that the LTO will start distributing in 2021 — but only to qualified drivers.
Galvante explained that those 10-year-valid licenses will only be given to drivers who did not exceed the allowed demerit points when the time comes to renew their licenses.
The demerit points will be the penalty for traffic violations.
The LTO chief said the validity of one’s license will be based on the driver’s number of violations. If the driver exceeds the allowable number of violations, the license that will be given will be valid less than 10 years. But if the driver has no violation, he or she will be given a 10-year license validity, he said.
A driver’s license is indeed a privilege — not a right. If one does not meet the requirements of the government agency tasked to oversee drivers and traffic, then they should not be given a license at all, he said.
The second action that attracted our attention was the privilege speech of Samar Representative Edgar Mary Sarmiento, chairman of the House committee on transportation.
“Now is the time to bring back the mandatory drug testing as a requirement for obtaining a driver’s license, especially for our public utility drivers. If we cannot implement this for everyone, the requirements should be at least more stringent to those who earn their living from the transportation sector,” Sarmiento said.
The lawmaker delivered the privilege speech in reaction to the rising number of deaths and injuries caused by drivers under the influence of illegal drugs.
He cited the death of a Grade 8 student in Makati and of a 17-year old woman and her three-month old baby last week. The driver of the jeepney that killed the Grade 8 student is a self-confessed drug user, while the driver of the truck is reportedly a shabu user.
Sarmiento urged the other representatives to reinstate the mandatory drug testing which was removed in 2013 because of RA 10586, especially for those who hold the steering wheels of public utility vehicles and trucks.
The Grade 8 student in Makati was killed and seven others seriously injured when they were run over by a speeding jeepney driven by a self-confessed drug user. They were on their way home to their families after school.
A day after the incident, an 18-wheeler truck driven by a driver who was said to be a shabu user plowed through several vehicles before ramming into several roadside establishments and killing a 17-year old woman and her three-month old baby.
Citing a recent ruling of the Court of Appeals, he said the mandatory drug testing for the application and the renewal of driver’s license is no longer required as provided under Section 36 (a) of RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 following the enactment of RA10586.
Sarmiento explained that under RA 9165, a drug test is only required when a driver is accosted by law enforcement officers for suspicion that they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
By Pinky Concha Colmenares