Rules of the road

SINGKIT - Doreen G. Yu - The Philippine Star

I am all for the recently approved Unified Ticketing System (UTS) and even the NCAP (No Contact Apprehension Policy, if and when the Supreme Court allows its implementation) as positive steps toward addressing the traffic mess in Metro Manila.

Looking at the table of violations and corresponding fines of the UTS released by the Metro Manila Council and the MMDA, I have to wonder how ready and prepared the authorities are to implement these rules – and to sustain their implementation over time.

First off, have all the traffic enforcers of the different cities – in their color-coded uniforms – as well as police officers assigned to traffic duty been fully briefed and properly trained on the rules of the road and how to implement them?

The recent brouhaha over the Stephen Speaks member who “bribed” the traffic enforcer with a selfie illustrates my point. The band member said their Grab driver was flagged down by an enforcer for beating the red light, as he was apparently caught in the middle of an intersection when the light turned red. “I saved that kid from a traffic ticket he didn’t deserve…because he didn’t do anything wrong,” the band member said in his online post.

Even acting MMDA chair Romando Artes agreed: “…the motorist who crossed while it was still green light, but was caught in the middle of the intersection by the red light, should really not be apprehended…”

I’m keeping a copy of The STAR with that story in my car to show the enforcer the next time I get flagged down in a situation like that. It’s certainly happened before and I’m afraid it will probably happen again. Unless the MMDA conducts proper training of all traffic enforcers.

Such situations would be greatly minimized if traffic lights, especially at major intersections, would be equipped with countdown timers. With such timers, the driver who tries to race through the intersection with just three seconds to red should then really be apprehended.

Drivers share the responsibility for road safety. How many of us really know the rules of the road? RA 4136 is the Land Transportation and Traffic Code that prescribes rules on speed limits, signaling, overtaking, reckless driving, etc. “Reckless” and “swerving” are favorite violations cited when one is pulled over; do we – drivers as well as enforcers – really know what these mean? Among other rules are RA 10913, the Anti-Distracted Driving Act (implementation has become lax after the initial strict enforcement); RA 8750, the Seat Belts Act; RA 10586, Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act.

And can we please have clearly visible, properly installed signs not covered by the branches of a tree or some promo tarpaulin, or those dangling by one nail so you don’t know which direction the arrow is pointing. The “No right turn on red” signs at two intersections I frequent (Legarda/Mendiola and Magsaysay/G. Araneta) are partly hidden behind posts and other signs, are faded and hardly visible at night. (Anyway, by nighttime when traffic is light, motorists just ignore these signs and if you do stop, you’ll likely get honked at.) I could be pushing my luck but may I also ask for proper signs for street names?

Interpretation and implementation of the rules have to be unified as well throughout the 16 cities and one municipality of Metro Manila. And shouldn’t unified also mean the rules apply to all vehicles, including buses, jeepneys, tricycles, motorcycles and bicycles? Some traffic enforcers seem to apply the rules selectively, giving a free pass to jeepneys and motorcycles and only flagging down private cars and – their favorite, it seems – cargo trucks. As to why they give these “exemptions,” I’ll leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions.

If and when NCAP is implemented, I suppose we won’t be seeing these color-coded traffic enforcers on the road anymore. Does that mean unemployment figures will go up if these guys – and there are so many of them, usually four or five at each intersection – are declared redundant, or will the local governments give them other jobs? Perhaps they can work on the planters in the center islands of our main thoroughfares so our roads don’t look like unkempt, abandoned gardens.

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