Drivers must be taught to respect pedestrians

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Reaping praises in the media is a proposed ordinance in the tiny city of San Juan, Metro Manila. Authored by Councilor Angelo Agcaoili, drivers sternly will be penalized for not stopping to let pedestrians cross the zebra lanes. If the ordinance catches on, other cities can follow suit. Potentially it would spur a change of culture, in which motorists think of others first and not let the steering wheel set them off on power trips.

Over the past decades of booming car sales, uncouth drivers acting like kings of the road have been endangering pedestrians. Countless walkers have been killed or maimed when hit by vehicles while crossing the street — even in designated crosswalks, under heavy rains.

Agcaoili, a lawyer, has had enough of it. His bill would compel drivers to brake even if only one person is crossing the zebra lane. Violators will be fined P1,000 for the first and P2,000 for subsequent offenses. The driver’s license will be confiscated, and one-percent interest per month shall be tacked on, until the fine is paid.

Exceptions shall only be when the pedestrian is crossing the street not at the corner or zebra lane, and when the vehicle has a go-signal from the traffic light or officer. That should caution against jaywalking as well.

Agcaoili thought of the measure after a close call. He was halfway across a major road to a mall in San Juan — on the zebra lane, with other pedestrians, and vehicles stopped on a red light — when two private cars whizzed by, nearly hitting them. The drivers trifled with human lives like they were racking up points in a grisly videogame.

There’s a hitch in Agcaoili’s proposed ordinance, though. There already is a national law to enforce pedestrian crosswalks. And as with all national legislations, it jealously disallows municipal superseding.

Presidential Decree No. 1958, issued in 1984, amends the Land Transportation and Traffic Code of 1964. Aside from its primary aim of imposing a private motor vehicle tax, PD 1958 obliges motorists to give way to pedestrians.

Chapter IV, Traffic Rules, Article III, Right of Way and Signals, Section 42(c) states: “The driver of any vehicle upon a highway within a business or residential district shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing such highway within a crosswalk, except at intersections where the movement of traffic is being regulated by a peace officer or by traffic signal. Every pedestrian crossing a highway within a business or residential district, at any point other than a crosswalk, shall yield the right of way to vehicles upon the highway.”

Chapter V, Penal and Other Provisions, Article I, Penalties, Section 56(l) fines violators — reckless drivers and jaywalkers alike — P100 to P500. Section 56(m) metes commensurate imprisonment on those who cannot pay. Section 56(n) further punishes under the Revised Penal Code the driver whose ignoring of the zebra lane results in death or injury.

And the kicker: Article III, Final Provisions, Section 62: “No provincial board, city or municipal council shall enact or enforce any ordinance or resolution in conflict with the provisions of this Act, or prohibiting any deputy or agent of the (Land Transportation) Commission to enforce this Act within their respective territorial jurisdiction and the provisions of any charter to the contrary notwithstanding.”

In penalties alone, Agcaoili’s ordinance conflicts with PD 1958. Meaning, it is stillborn.

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All is not lost. There really is need for the road culture change that Agcaoili envisions. He can incite it in ways other than a new traffic ordinance.

Surely there are many other city and municipal councilors of like mind. Through their national association, they can prod their colleagues to allot funds to paint zebra lanes in their locales. They can fund the reeducation of their driver-constituents in traffic rules and road courtesy, especially in basic respect for pedestrians. They can build more jails for reckless drivers and jaywalkers. And they can pass stiff ordinances to fine drivers who wreck public facilities like sidewalks and medians, hydrants, lampposts, traffic lights and signs.

There’s more. On the national level, they can lobby Congress to increase the fines and penalties for traffic violations. Lobby the Land Transportation Office too to impose stricter driver’s licensing. License testing can even be privatized, like the drug and emissions checks.

They can make the LTO require all drivers to buy copies of the Land Transportation and Traffic Code and the amending PD 1958. All drivers must be tested on the provisions, especially:

• required accessories, like brakes, horns, wipers, head, tail and brake lights, mufflers, side mirrors, and early warning devices;

• mandatory driver’s license and vehicle registration;

• proper driving on main thoroughfares and side roads, parking away from corners, speed limits, yielding the right of way, keeping to the right, overtaking, and loading heavy or extended cargo;

• prohibitions like obstructing traffic (important for public utility drivers), drunk driving, and hitching onto running boards; and

• dos and don’ts in case of accident.

Agcaoili’s vision of road discipline should be everybody’s.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

E-mail: [email protected]


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