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Road safety

Curbing surging road accidents

By Mary Ann Ayos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:47:00 05/10/2009

Filed Under: Accidents (general), Transport, Road Transport

TEN-YEAR-OLD Julian Carlo Miguel ?Amiel? Alcantara, a Grade 4 student, died of severe head injuries on February 24 after being run over by a Toyota Hi-Ace in the parking lot of Ateneo Grade School in Quezon City.

The driver, Ma. Teresa Torres-Laqui, allegedly stepped on the accelerator instead of the brakes.

Stepping on the gas instead of the brakes is one of drivers? errors that pushed up by 35 percent the number of road accidents in the country last year to 15,543, according to the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).

Data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Highway Patrol Group (HPG) showed a 26.5-percent jump in road accidents in 2008 to 14,589. Drivers? errors accounted for about a third of the total, followed by overspeeding, mechanical and road defects, and bad overtaking. (See Table 1.)

Drivers? errors include drunk driving, using a cellular phone while behind the wheel, hit and run, and self-accidents, cases in which the driver and his vehicle are involved without figuring in a collision.

The surge in road accidents has led to more deaths and injuries to drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.


Deaths from vehicular accidents accounted for 31 percent of the fatalities recorded by the Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC) in 2008, displacing falls as the leading cause of mortality at its facility in Quezon City.

POC data also showed that motorcycle riders accounted for the biggest number of the injured in 2007. (See Table 2.)

[The phenomenal increase in the number of motorcycles on the road as a result of high gas prices last year and the entry of relatively cheap motorbikes from China, and the practice of many drivers and passengers not to use helmets partly explain this development.]

Dramatic increase

In the first two months of the year, motorcycle accidents further rose and are now the HPG?s primary concern.

?If last year, cars were on the top spot, now the motorcycles are leading. Just imagine the spike in the number of motorcycles plying our roads now,? said Superintendent Jose B. Macanas, chief of the PNP Operations Management Division.

In its road safety awareness campaign, the DOTC noted that for every 10 road accidents last year, three involved cars, two involved motorcycles and one involved a jeepney. Automobiles ranked first in the type of motor vehicles involved in 4,059 accidents, followed by motorcycles with 3,408 cases and jeepneys with 2,194 cases.


Data from the government are likely understated as many vehicular accidents go unreported.

Take the case of Julius Santos, 26, who figured in two accidents on his Honda XRM. The first was due to a slippery road in Zapote, Las Pias. The second came when he pressed the brakes because a truck had abruptly cut in front of him on Aguinaldo Highway in Dasmarias, Cavite.

Santos was driving his motorbike for barely a month when the accidents happened.

Florante Hinlayagan, 27, also figured in two accidents while riding his Honda Wave 100. The accidents also went unreported.

Broken nose

In the first accident, he was cruising at 80 kilometers an hour on Kawit Freedom Park Bridge in Cavite, under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and without a helmet.

His second accident (in January) was also caused by drunk driving. He had to undergo plastic surgery for a broken nose.

Macanas said the country?s system of measuring a driver?s intoxication level was not precise.

The Department of Health and the Philippine General Hospital are conducting a study of blood alcohol testing as part of the proposed road safety act pending in Congress. The measure seeks to penalize drunk drivers.

Macanas said he submitted an LOI (letter of intent) reiterating the ?no-helmet, no-travel? policy based on the LTO?s Administrative Order 2008-015, which prescribes the rules and regulations for the use of motorcycles on highways.

He said PNP traffic enforcers would also impound vehicles with no plates, as part of Oplan Mr. C ? motorcycle-riding criminals, mostly gunmen engaged in ambushes and extrajudicial killings.

Energy drinks, shabu

Using stimulants like energy drinks and shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) to fight off drowsiness, especially among public utility drivers, has also resulted in fatal accidents. Bus drivers are known to race with each other to get first to the next bus stop to get passengers.

One of the many victims of buses careening along major thoroughfares of Metro Manila was Francisco M. Sarabia Jr., an eye health service provider. He was killed when the car he was driving burst into flames after it was hit by a speeding Joanna Jesh Transport bus on EDSA on October 21 last year.

Public utility vehicle drivers resort to overspeeding because they are usually not given wages. Under the so-called ?boundary? system, their earnings for the day are what they get in excess of what they have to pay for the ?rental? of the vehicles they drive.

Speed limit

Macanas noted that speed limits were not strictly imposed on major thoroughfares like EDSA because speed, according to him, was difficult to control due to the large volume of vehicles.

But Anneli R. Lontoc, undersecretary for road transport, said: ?There?s an existing law prescribing the maximum speed limits and everybody should comply.?

Random drug testing of bus drivers is being conducted by the Land Transportation Office (LTO), according to Lontoc. Drivers who tested positive for drugs were fined P10,000 and their licenses revoked. Bus drivers caught racing against each other were fined P1,000 for reckless driving.

A recognition program for bus companies is also underway and the criteria will include the violations they committed, Lontoc said.

Ligtas Lakbay

Insufficient lighting on major roads with no speed limit, traffic signs unreadable from afar or even the absence of such signs also contribute to accidents.

?There?s also an order for the Department of Public Works and Highways to have all traffic signs reflectorized for visibility at night. We are also coordinating with ad agencies regarding the placement of large billboards and tarpaulins that more often than not, cover traffic signs,? Lontoc said.

To curb the growing number of road accidents, the DOTC launched a road safety awareness campaign called ?Ligtas Lakbay, Tuloy ang Buhay (Safe Trip, Life Continues)? in February.

The campaign aims to promote road safety awareness for all modes of transportation and to help change the behavior of motorists.

The Ligtas Lakbay campaign is based on the winning entry in the 9th Integrated Marketing Communications Students? Competition of the Pana Foundation. Pana adopted the theme ?Stop, Look, Listen: Road Safety Awareness Campaign? for its 2008 contest.

A group of advertising, communication and marketing students from De La Salle University won the first prize, with the slogan ?Ligtas na paglalakbay, tuloy ang buhay.?

The DOTC partnered with Pana Foundation and adopted the campaign, which encompasses land, sea and air travel.

Stickers, T-shirts, signage, tire-covers and other promotional materials have been disseminated nationwide. The campaign logo, already visible on expressways, highways and national roads, serves as a reminder to motorists, travelers and pedestrians.

As part of the campaign, the DOTC will conduct seminars for private and public utility vehicle drivers. It will be a refresher course on traffic rules and will seek to instill proper driving and discipline on the road.

?Because we can only do so much in terms of funding we are partnering with several private sectors,? Lontoc said.

The effectiveness of the campaign has yet to be seen. Road accident data are alarming but by simply obeying traffic rules and driving responsibly, one can prevent another Amiel from getting killed.

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