Two- versus four-wheeled: Rising motorbike casualties

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2019 - 12:00am

Sooner or later the authorities will have to deal with a raging road war: between two- and four- or more wheeled vehicles. Casualties are mounting daily. Over 351,000 road crashes were recorded nationwide in 2018. Ten thousand deaths resulted; nearly three in four fatalities were motorcyclists. About half a million were injured; again most vulnerable were those riding two wheels. It’s gotten to the point that motorcycling is now a major health hazard. In a recent hearing at the House of Reps the Land Transportation Office reported that motorcycle accidents was last year’s ninth leading cause of deaths.

It wasn’t that way only five years ago. There are 7.3 million registered motorcycles, three million more than the number of cars and other motor vehicles, 4.3 million. Of the total 11.6 million vehicles, 1.2 million were added only last year. Two-thirds of the new registrants were motorbikes.

Still, two-wheeled casualties are not due only to law of averages. Motorcycles basically are unsafe compared to – and mixed with – four or more wheels. In advanced countries they strictly are segregated using special lane dividers. Highways are off limits to motorcycles except those of more than 750-cc engine displacement. Lane-splitting, or motorcycling along the white lane stripes, is allowed only when cars are slow moving and the biker does not overtake.

Those aren’t followed in the Philippines, if there are rules at all. Here motorcycles do not stick to their few designated lanes, because those dangerously are hogged by speeding dump trucks. Tricycles, the equally unsafe variation of two wheels, slow down highway traffic, so derisively are called Kings of the Road. As for lane-splitting, also called white-lining or stripe-riding, the motorcycles abruptly cut in an out of lanes and make U-turns until ... WHAM!

So risky is motorcycling that helmets are required of riders. Still, the helmet does not avert skull fractures, a doctor famously said, but only keeps the rider’s brains from spilling all over the concrete. Speaking of which, mandatory as it is, the worst violators of the helmet law are cops. And because of the preponderance of murderers-for-hire “riding in tandem,” motorcyclists are required to take off helmets upon entering gated subdivisions.

Making things worse for motorcyclists are larger-vehicle drivers with no concern for anyone’s safety. The former’s road arch-foes seem to be UV-Taxis and buses. Like many motorcyclists, UV cabbies do not bother to signal their turns and insist on overtaking whenever and wherever disallowed. Buses are bullies. During the morning rush hour last Monday along Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, a bus sideswiped a motorbike. As the rider began to pick himself up, the bus backed up and ran him over for good measure.

Motorcycles are here to stay. The scarcity of public transport, jammed traffic on major thoroughfares, and low-installment purchase offers make them enticing for commuters. The recent House hearing was about a 300-percent in Road Users Tax to be collected by LTO. Only four and more wheels are to be hit; motorcycles will be exempted.

To lessen road casualties, the Five Safety Plans need implementing: safer roads, safer vehicles, safer drivers, improved safety management, and better trauma care. As reminder, there’s need for a National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims. A House bill will set it every third Sunday of Nov. At the Senate is another proposal to found a National Transport Safety Board.

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The Philippine Coast Guard reportedly will take over maritime issues in the West Philippine Sea. Is it prepared, or at least informed?

Only last June, when a Chinese naval militia vessel rammed a Filipino fishing boat in Recto Bank, a PCG officer said the area is “a traditional fishing ground of many nations.” That’s supposedly why they cannot just drive away foreign fishers.

That’s false. It’s the type of disinformation by Beijing’s communist rulers. Their “Three Warfares” includes propaganda to mislead their targets. To think that the officer who fell for it is among the PCG’s highest.

Recto Bank is within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone and well beyond the EEZs of neighbor nations. It is 700 miles from China’s nearest coast of Hainan. The EEZ denotes “exclusivity” of Filipino use of the marine wealth therein.

The PCG needs to enforce the Fisheries Code. The law forbids foreigners from fishing within Philippine EEZ, including Recto Bank. Violators face multimillion-peso fines and jail terms.

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

Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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