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EDITORIAL- Tragedy in Nueva Ecija

Winding mountain roads often provide scenic views and make for pleasurable drives – unless the vehicle loses its brakes or the driver loses control of the wheel. Investigators are still trying to piece together what happened in the moments before a minibus plunged into a ravine yesterday morning along the Cagayan Valley-Nueva Ecija Highway in Barangay Capintalan in the Nueva Ecija town of Carranglan.

With the ravine about 100 feet deep, the Leomarick minibus shattered into two parts as it tumbled down and smashed into the ground. As of last night, 29 passengers had died while 38 were being treated, some of them for critical injuries, in several hospitals.

Accidents happen, but prevention is possible. There have been numerous deadly vehicular accidents attributed to the loss of breaks especially on winding mountain roads all over the country. The accidents are widely reported, and bus operators should be sufficiently aware of the need to keep the brakes of their vehicles in top shape.

Bus drivers themselves have also been blamed for many of the accidents, although most of them were among the fatalities. This should prompt operators of buses and other mass transport vehicles to ensure that their drivers have sufficient experience in driving along sloping, winding roads. There should also be enhanced screening for drug use; drivers are known to take shabu or other drugs to stay awake for long trips. While they manage to remain awake, shabu affects alertness and perception while driving, endangering passengers.

The numerous bus accidents have created the impression that land transportation is unsafe in this country. This is a deterrent to tourism, which is suffering enough from security concerns. Buses are popular among the poor, and bus operators should not take the safety of their regular passengers for granted. From the brakes to the engine and tires, buses must undergo regular maintenance checks. The latest tragedy in Nueva Ecija should lead to more stringent measures to ensure the roadworthiness of mass transportation vehicles.

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