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Opinion

Road crashes 4th cause of deaths in Philippines

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Road crashes are the fourth leading cause of deaths in the country, the Dept. of Health reported in 2017. One Filipino perishes in vehicle collisions every 17 hours, or 43 per month and 509 per year. Motorcycle accidents alone were the ninth main cause of deaths then, said the Land Transport Office. There are 7.6 million registered motorcycles and 3.2 million other vehicles.

In the capital region alone in 2018 the Metro Manila Development Authority counted an average of 49 injuries and one death per day. Daily incidents of damage to vehicular property were 270. From another 2018 report, road crashes are the top killer of youths aged five to 29.

The worsening statistics have prompted promotion of and public education on road safety. Of particular concern is enforcement of laws and regulations on motor vehicles.

Roadworthiness is governed by the Land Transportation and Traffic Code (R.A. 4136). A recent radio interview dwelt on the 74 points for mandatory checks prior to vehicle registration. Only emissions presently are tested by LTO-accredited centers.

Foremost of the 74 are the hand and foot brakes; tail, brake, signal, hazard and headlights; tires; suspensions; speedometer; windshield wipers; even the engine and muffler noise levels.

Emission level is machine-tested, but all other components are checked only visually because there are no facilities, road safety expert Benson So told DZRH anchor Angelo Palmones. The LTO is looking into fully automated systems, with no human intervention so tamperproof.

“Nawalan ako ng preno (I lost the brakes)” is the most common excuse in car crashes, So noted. Next are failure to see the other vehicle in the dark, and skidding on curves and wet roads. Stricter tests should be done on parts and components that can be deadly, like faulty brakes, misaligned tires, worn-out threads, malfunctioning lights, and absence of speedometer, so there’s no alibi for speeding. Ex-congressman Palmones, head of Agham NGO, is calling for adequate government funding for testing facilities.

Driver licensing too needs to be stricter.

Not just anybody can be allowed to drive motorcycles unless fully tested on road rules and courtesy, signals and signs. In cities motorcyclists notoriously zip on sidewalks, cut into lanes, and ignore safety rules and gear. Motorcycle dealers sell to anybody with P2,000 for down payment and some loan collateral or guarantor. Biking knowledge is optional.

Exceptions are few. The ride-hailing Angkas posted a remarkable 97.5 percent safety record during a six-month test operation by the Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board. Still its recent agitation of thousands of bikers to protest the LTFRB’s inclusion of competitors in the tests revealed an aggressive streak after all. On the road, driver/biker aggressiveness spells peril for everyone.

Worries of road chaos arose about Angkas and the untested rivals. The Land Transportation and Traffic Code forbids two-wheelers as public utilities, reminded Elvira Medina of the National Center for Commuter Safety and Protection. Congressional revision is needed for motorcycle ride services to operate. LTFRB merely was authorized to supervise a limited actual run, but that’s all. In a way Angkas is colorum (illegal) for fully collecting fares as if already franchised, said ex-LTO commissioner Bert Suansing. Have Angkas, like car ride-hailing firms, been infected by Uber’s “Always Be Hustlin’” habit? They should beware, as that US company, initially a monopoly, had antagonized regulators in Manila and many foreign metropolises.

Truck and bus drivers too need to be tested regularly for road proficiency and drug use. Too often have big vehicles figured in fatal road crashes due to sheer recklessness. Drivers substitute air horns for brakes, in their sick minds yelling “Get out of the way for I’m coming!” They careen off ravines, or ram bantam vehicles, pedestrians, and roadside homes and shops. Bus drivers blatantly defy MMDA traffic enforcers, and rack up hundreds of traffic citations without the LTO knowing. They even oppose the installation of speed limiters.

Drunk driving is prevalent, despite stricter new laws. Police enforcement is spotty; they lack breath-analyzers that measure drivers’ blood alcohol levels on the spot.

The LTO is planning a new driving license scheme. Licensees no longer will be classified into pro and non-pro. Instead they will be limited to driving the vehicle type specified in the plastic cards – two-, four-, or more-wheeled. That’s to prevent any more cross-usage of vehicles in which licensees are unfamiliar and untested. Infamous was the six-month-long tricycle driver who, newly “graduated” to a ten-wheeler fuel tanker, ran over a grandma crossing the pedestrian lane. “I honked but she kept on walking and did not stop,” the brute reasoned out during police questioning. More drivers are out there ignorant of the most basic rule that pedestrians always have the right of way.

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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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