Deadly vehicles

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 - The Philippine Star

A study released by a local think tank warned about the significant rise of traffic accidents in our country involving motorcycles. Sadly, most of these were self-accidents and fatal to both the riders and passengers on board such two-wheeled vehicles, most conveniently used for ease of weaving in and out of heavy traffic.

Released last Oct. 1, the study showed motorcycle riders are most vulnerable to accidents. These accidents were particularly fatal for those who did not wear helmets as the mandated protective gear for motorcycle drivers and their passengers.

Alarm bells were raised following the release to the public of the study done by Thinking Machines (TM), a Taguig City-based research team that analyzed data gathered from various government transport agencies. Deaths due to motorcycle crashes are on the rise and the trend continues, TM noted.

From available official records of motor vehicle accidents, TM cited motorcycle crashes were over five times more likely to result in death or injury compared with other road accidents.

According to the TM, their study was an offshoot of the World Health Organization (WHO) report that cited road accidents are one of the leading causes of deaths in the Philippines. With data accessed from the website of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), TM studied the recorded road mishaps that kill some 8,499 Filipinos each year.

MMDA records revealed a total of 90,258 accidents reported in 2014 in Metro Manila alone. Of this total, motorcycle riders posted the second highest number of accidents with 52.6 percent. This means motorcycle riders are more at risk and more likely to figure in accidents along Metro Manila’s roads.

Riders of bicycles though – also two-wheeled vehicle but not motorized – were most prone to accidents. Riding on bicycle has a 66.8 percent chance of figuring in an accident.

From data culled from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), TM projects some 300,000 Filipinos would die from road accidents between 2010 and 2020.

TM actually used the term “casualty likelihood” to predict future trends in road accidents. They projected 44 percent of fatalities would be pedestrians. Accidents that occur before dawn were thrice more likely to result in serious injuries, or worse, deaths, TM added.

Based on the same MMDA data, 193 pedestrians were killed by motorcycle accidents while 18,586 injuries were recorded from 2005 to August 2015. So in a span of 10 years, more pedestrians would be hit by motorcycles compared to other types of motor vehicles.

Jing Morales, secretary of the Motorcyclists’ Rights Organization (MRO), was quoted saying the top three causes of motorcycle-related accidents are (1) drunk driving; (2) reckless driving, and (3) poorly maintained motorcycles.

Obviously, these are the same causes of accidents even in other vehicles from four-wheel cars to 16-wheeler trucks.

Established in 2008 to defend the rights of motorcycle users, the MRO has been conducting workshops to help prevent motorcycle accidents, Morales disclosed. The MRO workshops cater not just to their 5,000 members but are also part of their public service program. Well and good for them.

But what is not shown in this data on accidents is the other deadly fact on the unchecked and continuing incidents of motorcycles involved in tandem-riding assassinations and killings. For being easy to maneuver in busy roads, motorcycles also have become the getaway vehicle of choice for hired guns and assassins.

Sadly, most of these tandem-riding crimes also remain unsolved and fatalities just relegated to crime statistics.

Which brings to mind the recent hullaballoo over the enforcement of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) requirement for those securing new or renewing their professional drivers’ licenses. The LTO was supposed to implement the DOTC Administrative Order that requires professional driver’s license (PDL) applicants to submit National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and police clearances before securing licenses.

Buckling down to adverse publicity generated by vehement objections by public utility drivers and organized motorists groups, the LTO suspended its implementation for now. The applicants for new professional licenses though will still need to submit such clearance, a requirement already in place.

“In view of the non-availability of NBI offices in far flung areas and island provinces,” LTO chief Alfonso Tan Jr. cited as reason for suspending this requirement. “The old policy requiring police or NBI clearances for new PDL or change classification from non-professional driver’s license to PDL shall remain in force,” the LTO order further stated.

Motorcycle drivers can get green license, or restriction-1 license that only allows them to drive two-wheeled vehicles. But they must get a professional drivers’ license, or restriction-2, to allow them to also drive cars and other motor vehicles.

Will such NBI or police clearances stop these tandem-riding criminals from plying their deadly trade? For hired guns and assassins, certainly this government requirement is no barrier to their nefarious activity. Will the same requirement lessen accident-prone motorcycle riders?

It behooves our policy-makers to rethink ways of achieving the intent of this requirement. With the wealth of information at the disposal of the government, such data-based study as what this think tank group had come up with is a rich guide to well-thought out policy.

* * *

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, one of 19 candidates for the vice presidency in the May 2016 elections, is our guest in today’s Kapihan sa Manila Bay at the Filomena Garden in Luneta Hotel in T.M. Kalaw, Manila. Trillanes is one of three vice presidential candidates of the Nacionalista Party (NP). On his second and last term as senator, Trillanes is running though as “independent” candidate. Will he or will he not pursue his bid for higher office despite having no presidential standard-bearer nor support from his own party leaders from NP? The maverick senator will answer this and other questions in our weekly breakfast forum.

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