Something that looks like a much needed solution finally comes along, but you don’t know if you should greet it with applause or raised eyebrows. This seems to be how the public feels toward the 40-kilometer-per-hour speed limit proposed to be implemented all over Metro Manila, judging by the sound of unconcern that followed its announcement by the Department of Transportation and Communications last Monday.
The plan is to require all buses plying the metropolis to be fitted with a “speed limiter,” a device that will automatically keep the buses within a maximum speed of 40 kph. Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas said this new measure was meant to “complement the campaign to reduce the number of fatal road accidents caused by public utility buses in Metro Manila.” Last year alone, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board recorded 395 victims of bus accidents, 74 of whom died and 301 were injured.
The fact is a 60-kph speed limit is already supposedly enforced on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City and Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay City. And a law against overspeeding has been in existence since we can remember. It falls under the category of reckless driving and is punishable under Republic Act 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code. Except that it’s been a long, long time since we last heard of somebody sent to jail for overspeeding even if it caused the death and injury of others.
It’s not clear yet whether this DOTC plan will push through. As we write, there’s no definitive word about the stand of the Integrated Metropolitan Bus Operators Association on the matter. Its president, Claire dela Fuente, said she would still be consulting with the members. There’s no question though that the proposed measure, if adopted, will entail additional expense for them.
LTFRB chair Jaime Jacob said its officials had talked to some bus operators. They are amenable to the idea but they want the maximum 40-kph speed limit raised. However, according to Jacob, the “standard of diligence or care” when it comes to the speed of public utility vehicles is different from that of private cars, and in other countries, the speed limit for buses in urban areas is 20 kph.
That we need to regulate car speed on our roads is plain common sense. The point can’t be stated more strongly: “Speed kills.” And to find proof of that (as if we still need to), you don’t have to wave gory statistics or wait for another tragic accident to happen. You can just go around Metro Manila any time of day or night and you will see for yourself “idiot drivers” driving “like crazy,” as an exasperated government officials once put it.
Except that they’re not just overspeeding, they also drive jeepneys, taxicabs, private luxury vehicles and ramshackle cars. And they’re in the provinces, too.
“Road maniacs,” they’re also called, and without meaning to be unkind, we agree that they are. For they endanger the lives of passengers and pedestrians alike (and they too have killed even unknowing people right in their homes) in every reckless way they can—like driving under the influence or through the night without headlights or while using mobile phones; parking in no-parking zones; carving terminals out of highways; picking up passengers anywhere they can, even if they have to stop right in the middle of the street to do so, etc.—and the rest of the country can go to hell for all they care.
And as if these were not enough flouting of the law, they refuse to take passengers to the required destination if they think it’s too far away, charge higher than the legally prescribed fares, continue to drive smoke-belchers as they themselves spew cigarette smoke on passengers, verbally abuse these paying passengers, even shoot others following a heated traffic altercation, etc.
Seeing or hearing about all these, you are driven to wonder if our streets are still governed by laws. But to be sure, there is a plenitude, even an overabundance, of ordinances, rules, regulations and laws that are supposed to ensure traffic safety and order. The question is, will the proposed 40-kph speed limit just join those that have been rendered toothless?
We say it again: The key to restoring order, be it on the streets or in any other public territory, is not more laws. It is enforcement.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.