In the driver’s seat | Inquirer Opinion
In the Pink of Health

In the driver’s seat

Have you ever had those situations when you allowed yourself to be gripped by extreme emotions nearly oblivious to danger, then figured in a mishap, or you failed to adhere to a set of precautions that resulted in illness then being identified as the index source of infection? How many times have you simply ignored reading or understanding signs and found yourself caught not only in an embarrassing situation but a precarious one? With almost absolute certainty, these must have spurned a litany of what ifs and if onlys. Granted that we do not always have control over how things will turn out, it would help if we remind ourselves that we can do our share to prevent unfortunate incidents or accidents from happening. Being alert, aware, and mindful of how one’s action may directly or indirectly impact the other can be our contribution to making the world a safer place.

If you think that infectious diseases are a public health concern, are you aware that road injuries are too? The Global Status Report by the World Health Organization (WHO) on road safety in 2023 ranked it as the No. 12 cause of death across all ages in 2019; in the 5-29 age group, it was the leading cause ahead of tuberculosis. Given that there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, coming across such disturbing data made me rethink the content for this week’s column. Both can definitely share space in the pursuit of raising awareness.

Road accidents. In the same report, the top three fatalities globally were occupants of four-wheel vehicles, followed by pedestrians and users of two to three-wheelers. Distribution varied across regions, with low- to middle-income countries reporting greater numbers. Amongst the road users, pedestrians and cyclists were cited as the most vulnerable.

From available data, including some local studies, a lot of factors such as lack of infrastructure, leadership, existence or enforcement of laws, and human errors have been mentioned as contributory. These are universal, all too familiar, and may even inevitably spiral into an unpalatable maze of discussions of the country’s current situation. So as not to be derailed from the primary objective, let us focus on what can be done.


“Always practice defensive driving. Even if you are on the right side of the equation, you cannot control how others may choose to think or act.” My late father’s words were so on point. They always bring back memories of how I was nearly run over by a dilapidated bus, that chose to speed up and disregard that my car was properly positioned at the intersection. It was fortunate that my seatbelt was securely fastened. The aftermath was a concussion that spanned two weeks, phobia that prevented me from driving for a month, and worst of all, remembering how unremorseful the driver was and insistent that being female, I was the one at fault. Whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, lacked sleep, distracted or just simply felt he was the king of the road and unpunishable, we never got to ascertain. Most of these are reminders of proper road use behavior and while this recount involved four-wheeled vehicles, let us not forget the safety rules for those utilizing bicycles, motorcycles, or electronically powered scooters. Keep that safety gear on, most especially that lifesaving helmet, and stick to designated lanes and allowed roads. When with a passenger, ensure that they are properly seated and have similar protective gear.

The other half. From the Department of Health to nongovernment medical societies, you must have read several advisories reminding the public to observe standard precautions to prevent disease transmission, as there has been an observed increase in COVID cases. Whether the FLiRT variants are in local circulation, which to my knowledge has yet to be documented, there is a real possibility, and it would be prudent to be cautious despite reports that admissions to hospitals are containable and remain low.

Our personal checklist. Wash hands regularly. Cover your cough or sneeze. Wear masks properly and when appropriate. Avoid crowded places and ensure that there is adequate ventilation at home and in the workplace. It is recommended that one undergoes COVID testing if symptomatic, report accordingly, and isolate. Seek early consultation for proper medical advice and management. Never dismiss it as “just a cold“ for it may have dire consequences for those who are vulnerable, immunosuppressed, and at the extreme ends of the age spectrum. Visit your physician for other recommended immunizations. How one’s immune system functions is unique to every individual and anyone may be left open to reinfection. We all need to be on guard and stay vigilant.


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