We often think of pandemics as caused by viruses. But here’s the thing: Between the dawn of human mobility and now, the world has been subject to the double-edged sword of transportation. Without a doubt, modern transport has brought countless benefits to individuals and societies. In the same breath, however, our transport systems have wrought upon us unfathomable tragedies.

When I was in college, one of my grade school classmates happened to spot me from across the street where I was walking on my way to my school in Manila. As she crossed the marked pedestrian lane to excitedly meet me, an oncoming speeding jeepney didn’t have time to slow down and stop, until it was too late. Her body was dragged under the jeep for a few meters.

Luckily, a nearby television crew rushed her to the nearest hospital. She survived the accident, but suffered cuts, bruises, a broken pelvis, and recurring long-term pain.

One night four years ago, my 77-year-old aunt, whom we fondly called Baby and was residing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was hit by a speeding car while she was crossing a marked pedestrian lane. She was just a few meters from her home, on the spot where residents said was accident-prone. She survived the initial impact, having sustained severe head and internal injuries. In the hospital, there were signs that she would recover. But it wasn’t to be. Four days after the accident, Aunt Baby suffered a cardiac arrest and died.
Just like that, my feisty, funny, and loving aunt was gone. Taken forever from her family by the reckless actions of a driver who irresponsibly wielded a deadly two-ton weapon. I later learned from my cousin—Aunt Baby’s daughter—that another senior citizen was run over on the same spot the day after her accident.

Last Nov. 21 was the observance of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2021, which further stresses the need to reduce traffic speeds in order to prevent pedestrians and all other vulnerable road users—children, elderly and the disabled—from dying and suffering life-altering injuries.

A bottle of beer in a man’s hands driving the car during daytime

According to the United Nations, the observance of the day aims to provide a platform for road traffic victims and their families to:

o Remember all people killed and seriously injured on the roads;

o Acknowledge the crucial work of the emergency services;

o Draw attention to the generally trivial legal response to culpable road deaths and injuries;

o Advocate for better support for road traffic victims and victim families;

o Promote evidence-based actions to prevent and eventually stop further road traffic deaths and injuries.

According to the World Health Organization, every year the lives of approximately 1.3 million people are cut short as a result of road accidents. Between 20 million and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a disability as a result of their injury.

Our own Department of Transportation on Nov. 12 reminded the motoring public, in line with the National Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, Survivors, and Their Families, of Republic Act No. 10586, known as the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving of 2013, which protects the motoring public and ensures that pedestrians will not be put in danger on the road by penalizing persons driving under the influence of alcohol, dangerous drugs, and similar substances.

Towards this end, law enforcers can subject suspect drivers to a field sobriety test. The apparent indications and manifestations of driving under the influence include speeding, weaving, lane straddling, sudden stops, swerving, poor coordination, or the evident smell of alcohol in a person’s breath or signs of use of drugs and other similar substances.

If you happen to come across a motorist exhibiting such signs, please do not hesitate to notify any nearby mobile police, or call police hotlines to report the incident and identify the license plates and last known location of the suspect motorist. Your actions can spell the difference between life and death.

We have lost one too many of our friends and loved ones to this pandemic of irresponsible driving, and I think it’s never too early to remind ourselves, as a Holiday Season heavy with “revenge revelry” looms (yes, I describe this overpowering need to celebrate Christmas 2021 in the company of friends and relatives as “revenge revelry” because we were forced to skip such festivities in 2020 by the lockdowns), that we literally have in our hands a weapon that can cut short many lives. This weapon requires a sound, sober mind to wield responsibly and to be used the way it ought to be used.

Life-altering decisions will soon be made by many motorists. I’m afraid we’re about to see a spike in road mishaps caused by drunk drivers in control (or not) of cars, SUVs, pickups, motorcycles, yes, even scooters and bicycles.

Every injury, every death, should have been a lesson seared into our collective consciousness. I can only hope my aunt’s tragic story, like the stories of millions of other victims, would not be in vain.