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Issues over Metro Roads Safety

The Halsema Highway in the Cordilleras has been identified by Google as one of the most dangerous roads in the world. With its poor visibility during foggy days, this highway experiences landslides posing risks for motorists. Tracing a circuitous path that crosses the massive Cordillera Central mountain range, large sections of this are a dangerous route that remains unpaved.

In Metro Manila, Commonwealth Avenue is known as the ‘killer highway.’ Several accounts of vehicular accidents and deaths are recorded each year to the chagrin of motorists and pedestrians.

For ordinary Juan de la Cruz, one would ask, “So how safe are Philippine roads”? The country’s arterial road networks cover the interchanges like cloverleaves and viaducts. Former Mandaluyong City Engineer Conrad Anciado says setting a maximum speed limit for road networks can make these networks safer, including installation of road signs and railings along the viaducts and interchanges.

Missing Road Signs a Problem

Rampant stealing of road safety signs in the metropolis is a common problem. Serving as Mandaluyong’s city engineer for over 20 years, Anciano notes that City Mayor Benhur Abalos has ordered the installation of traffic signs in different parts of the city making the roads more pedestrian- and motorist-friendly. Major intersections were painted with first-class traffic paint that confirms to the international standards. Although the painting job lasted for over four years, the traffic signs vanished one by one in less than two years.

To curb such acts, Chairman Bayani Fernando of the Metro Manila Development Authority has launched a drive to make the stealing of traffic signs a criminal act.

In Muntinlupa City, former City Mayor Jaime Fresnedi has enacted an ordinance that charges stiffer anti-fencing penalties, including junkshop owners who will be caught buying and selling stolen government properties.

Prevalence of Road Accidents

Based on reports, vehicular accident was a top killer in 2008. The report attributed to the increasing accidents brought by cheap motorcycles from China, which flooded the metro roads at the height of the oil price hike.

In an interview with Makati Traffic Enforcement Unit (MTEU) Head Chief Inspector Jaime Santos, SecurityMatters learned that the city has recorded an average of three motorcycle accidents daily.

“Most of the motorcycle accidents occur to those who purchase motorcycles that don’t even take a standard rider’s background in handling difficult situations while driving. Lack of skills and experience often result to accidents,” Santos stresses.

To address this issue, the city government through the MTEU conducted a free seminar to several riders’ establishments to give them tips in avoiding accidents. “The riders are chosen because they are the ones who are always under pressure in their jobs. These establishments have promising promos for their customers to deliver the orders in the fastest time possible, or the order is free. This puts pressure on the delivery rider to drive faster, thus increasing risks,” Chief Insp. Santos cites. Around 30 riders attended the seminar and three of them have met accidents during the training course as reported. “Luckily, these were minor accidents, although one accident resulted to damage to property,” In spite of this, the city and the MTEU will never give up in its bid to ensure public road safety, he says.

SecurityMatters learned the Makati motorcycle accident average is much lower than Quezon City’s daily average of five to seven accidents or around 210 riders’ accidents per month. From 2001 to 2008, about 35 percent of all accidents was caused by human error as the drivers have accidentally stepped on the gas instead of the brakes.

Citing statistics from the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), overspeeding, wrong overtaking, and road defects are the major causes of road accidents.

Drag Racing on the Rise

A growing threat to motorists’ safety is the proliferation of illegal races within the major arteries of C-5 and Macapagal Boulevard. Citizens living within the community have decried inaction by concerned local government units to curb drag racing. In Parañaque alone, it is surprising that the city mayor has issued a permit to the supposedly illegal races along Macapagal Blvd.

Concerned citizens note the mayor should be aware of the limitations of his authority. He cannot legalize a risky activity by issuing a permit. So far, it is only Quezon City that has enacted an ordinance that strictly prohibits road races.

Standardizing Road Safety Measures

As a way of encouraging and guiding the motorists, the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) recommends that road signs be improved and standardized.

AAP stresses the need to create uniform street names and road signs. It recommends the use of the widely acceptable language conforming to the international standards to help motorists follow easily traffic rules and drive safely.

Motorists, the group adds, should not consider a road sign as merely a guide on how they should move on the road but as an embodiment of a rule that needs to be followed for the safety of all road users.

The AAP also points out that road signs have nothing to do with traffic information and regulations; and non-relevant signs should be removed to avoid distracting drivers.

The group believes that increasing traffic fines will help promote road safety by discouraging drivers from violating traffic regulations, while the national auto club also urges the government to do its part by strictly enforcing traffic regulations and improving road signs nationwide.

The Drive Initiatives

The MTEU notes its strong conviction to mobilize its continuing efforts to promote road safety. Aside from giving flyers with tips on how to drive safely, the MTEU has also established close links with the city’s various public transport organizations to ensure that all the members attend the seminars on proper driving and road safety.

“We gave 46 presidents of member-associations of the jeepney drivers’ associations a free haircut after attending the seminars. The seminars re-oriented them regarding traffic signs and symbols that they encounter in the roads, along with refresher courses on driving tips,” the MTEU chief says. This campaign included giving free rides to the students.

The road safety campaign, Santos adds, has been very effective in reducing several traffic violations of the members of the drivers’ federations. Although Makati has seriously waged a road safety campaign with the cooperation of the public transport groups, many are wondering if this is being implemented in the other areas of Metro Manila.

Road Users Act

June 20 marked the celebration of enacting RA 4136. The Land Transportation Office has taken action to improve local traffic laws by drafting the Road Safety Act of the Philippines to update and supplement RA 4136.

Along with the Road Users Act, the Road Safety Act has remained pending in the Senate and the House of Representatives. A Senate source confirmed that the Upper Chamber’s version of the proposed measure is still unresolved with the Public Service Committee headed by Sen. Bong Revilla. If approved, the bill will increase fines on traffic violations and hopefully provide higher penalties for drunk drivers.•