EDITORIAL - Clear traffic signals

The Philippine Star

The Supreme Court is still deliberating on petitions challenging the no-contact apprehension policy in enforcing traffic rules. Among the biggest complaints against the NCAP were the exorbitant fines even for the slightest infractions, the inadequacy of traffic management infrastructure as well as the outsourcing of traffic enforcement to a private company, QPax Traffic Systems Inc.

Since QPax received up to 70 percent of the fines, it was not surprising that NCAP turned out to be a profit-oriented, money-making program, at public expense, rather than an initiative to promote compliance with traffic rules.

Compounding the problem was the insistence of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to replace stoplights with traffic countdown timers with so-called adaptive lights, which change color alerts depending on the traffic situation on the ground. Why the MMDA is insisting on spending precious public funds to replace traffic lights that aren’t even broken is puzzling.

Critics have pointed out that the absence of countdown timers makes traffic light changes unpredictable, and can trap motorists inside a traffic box junction particularly in wide intersections with slow-moving traffic – an offense that could merit thousands of pesos in fines. Such junctions are money-making NCAP traps.

Proponents cite studies showing that traffic countdown timers promote safe driving habits, with motorists slowing down when they know that the stoplight color alert is about to change. Yet the MMDA is determined to create more NCAP traps by eliminating the countdown timers.

Now, finally, someone feels the pain of motorists. Sen. Mark Villar, who proved to be a capable secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways in the previous administration, has filed Senate Bill No. 1959, mandating the installation of countdown timers in traffic and pedestrian lights nationwide.

“The absence of timers makes it difficult for motorists and pedestrians to anticipate the color alert changes, making it challenging for them to properly respond to the signal,” the bill declares. “It is deemed proper to improve the traffic management system by providing clear signals to motorists and pedestrians.”

As proposed by Villar, maintenance of such lights will be under the DPWH and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, in coordination with local government units. Many LGUs already have traffic countdown timers; several cities in Metro Manila have refused to go along with the MMDA initiative. Villar’s bill deserves congressional support.

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