Editorial & Opinion

Rosaries and other distractions

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Among the “distracting” items that the new law on distracted driving has banned from the driver’s line of sight are rosaries dangling from the rearview mirror.

Like the mini-altars, complete with an iconic image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help flanked by two battery-powered “candles” that festoon many a jeepney’s dashboard, the dangling rosaries are, I think, a uniquely Filipino take on religious machismo. Consider the annual Nazarene procession in Quiapo with its sea of muscled barefoot men competing against one another for the chance to touch the image or board the carriage transporting it. Like the rosary and mini-altar, taking part in the ritual is a symbol not just of religious fervor but also of the Pinoy’s ability to mix this in with unabashed male privilege without any sense of outrage or irony.

I’m inclined to agree, in fact, with the observation that among the most fervid of Quiapo devotees are the metropolis’ most notorious criminals, from pickpockets to petty thieves, from wife beaters to politicians.

But back to the rosaries. How often have you seen a jeepney (or taxi or bus) driver automatically touch the rosary each time he embarked on a trip or passed a church on his route? The sight is reassuring, telling me that the driver, who has our life and safety in his hands during our commute, knows that more is at stake in his driving than just getting to our destination in as short a time as possible. It also tells me that he is at least acutely aware of his responsibilities, if not to his passengers, then at least to a higher power.

In an FB post, doctor and former health undersecretary (has he been reinstated?) Ted Herbosa observes that “in my over 30 years of work as a trauma surgeon at PGH, I never once encountered [someone who became] a car crash victim because of this rosary hanging on a rearview mirror!”

He follows that up with his opinion that “those drivers [with rosaries] are safe drivers and protect the other people on the road!” He then cites his driver of five years at the DOH who would start each trip by touching the rosary and saying a short silent prayer. “He was one of the safest drivers I knew! Not once did we have a car crash or even a collision!”

The ban on dangling rosaries and other devices on the dashboard, windshield, or steering wheel is part of the new law, which purportedly seeks to instill road safety awareness in the country by, among other things, ensuring that drivers give their full attention to their task at hand - steering a vehicle and ensuring that it and its passengers arrive safely.

And so along with rosaries and mini altars, banned are portable devices that drivers use to find their way courtesy of Waze and other apps, cell phones into which they talk or text during their down time or worse, while they’re driving (I once spotted a motorcycle driver speeding down an overpass while texting!), and all types of gewgaws and accessories (crocheted curtains, plastic bunting) including, astonishingly, mini-TV sets.

But the law doesn’t say anything about huge billboards that festoon our thoroughfares, certainly distracting sights. Especially, I might add, those humongous video walls that, aside from capturing the attention of most passersby (I wouldn’t be surprised if aliens patrolling our atmosphere are riveted to them, too) can also be blinding, especially if they use blazing white as a background.

Motorists are at best skeptical about the practical effect of this new law, saying there are so many other “distractions” to worry about, like colorum buses, illegally parked vehicles, potholes in the streets, smoke-belchers and the newly resurrected “wang-wang” on official limos and police escorts.

Indeed, the only ones truly and fully elated with the implementation of the Anti-Distracted Driving Law are kotong cops who must see it as opening the door to a universe of new income sources. TV news footage shows, for instance, that most of those nabbed on the first day the law was implemented were let off with a stern warning. We’ll see in the next few days if the cops develop a tougher hide. Distracted drivers: Time to stroke those rosaries with even greater fervor! – Inquirer.net

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