IS IT NECESSARY TO RESTRICT SPEED WHEN TRAFFIC IS ALMOST ALWAYS AT A STANDSTILL?
‘Maybe getting in the habit of driving safe and slow would lead to more disciplined motorists’
Recently, a Facebook post by a respected media colleague focused on the 30kph speed limit in Davao City, and how the city’s residents have accepted this restriction since 2013.
The post narrated how a local resident driving our colleague in his city apologized for going slow, even though it was late at night and traffic was light. It has become a habit to drive safe and slow within city limits—30kph in most zones, 40kph on some streets, 60kph on certain segments of a main thoroughfare.
It is said that the former mayor of Davao, now our President, had been so horrified by road-accident fatalities blamed mostly on speeding that he issued an executive order to slow down every vehicle on the road. That order is being successfully implemented to this day. This raises a number of questions: Should a similar measure be imposed in Metro Manila? Could it be implemented with the same success? Could it help improve traffic and road safety?
It should be safe to say that the majority would agree speed limits are needed and could help make our streets safer. After all, every country has set and been enforcing speed limits for motorized vehicles all in the name of safety, if Wikipedia is to be believed. Countries may differ in maximum driving speeds for different kinds of roads or neighborhoods, but in general, these range from 30-60kph in towns or city streets, and 80-140kph on highways. Enforcement, though, is ever a problem. Republic Act No. 4136 (aka the Land Transportation and Traffic Code), approved in 1964, prescribes maximum allowable speed limits for motorized vehicles. On open country roads, with no blind corners not closely bordered by habitations, it’s 80kph for passenger cars and motorcycles, and 50kph for trucks and buses. On ‘through streets’ or boulevards clear of traffic, with no blind corners and when so designated, it’s 40kph for passenger cars and motorcycles, and 30kph for trucks and buses. On city and municipal streets not designated as through streets, it’s 30kph for passenger cars, motorcycles, trucks and buses.
RA 4136 also sets a maximum allowable speed of just 20kph for all motorized vehicles “through crowded streets, approaching intersections at blind corners, passing school zones, [and] passing other vehicles that are stationary or for similar dangerous circumstances.” It states, too, that “no provincial, city or municipal authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance or resolution specifying maximum allowable speeds other than those provided in this Act.”
It’s notable that the lawyer who used to be mayor of Davao and is now our President seems to have implemented his own speedlimit provisions.
There was an attempt to enforce speed limits in Metro Manila, at least on Commonwealth Avenue and Diosdado Macapagal Avenue. The MMDA set a maximum running speed of 60kph on both thoroughfares, for a while making a show of strictly enforcing this limit. But that may have gone the way of MMDA’s show of restricting motorbikes to their own designated lanes on EDSA and other major thoroughfares. That’s the observation of motorists who frequent those roads.
Why is speeding not as big a concern as before? Maybe because with the way traffic crawls on practically the whole of Metro Manila, there is no danger of vehicles exceeding the 40kph speed limit for through streets in the city or municipality. Or that fatalities from speeding are no longer in the news for lack of horrific road accidents—or that they may have been shoved off the front pages by deaths with victims draped with placards.
But perhaps the biggest reason is that traffic enforcers neither have the equipment nor the incentive for catching speeders. So, should enforcing speed limits in Metro Manila not be a priority of the government under the former mayor of Davao, who had enforced them in his erstwhile fiefdom?
Well, some would say it should still be, arguing that people need to get in the habit of observing traffic regulations, including and most especially speed limits. A few would even argue that perhaps the speed limits on RA 4136 should be enforced. Maybe getting in the habit of driving safe and slow would lead to more disciplined motorists. They believe that people—motorists, in particular—seem to always be in a hurry, and this leads them to ignore traffic regulations and road courtesy all in the name of getting ahead of others.
But the problem of enforcement should be addressed at the outset. Traffic enforcers need the equipment to identify and catch speedsters. The no-contact apprehension scheme must be complemented by CCTVs with radar capability to record and identify speed-limit violators.
The present administration is asking for emergency powers and funds to solve the traffic crisis and improve motoring in Metro Manila. Perhaps they can use powers and funds once granted to bring about the same kind of change in driving habits that made Davao a safer city for motorists. It may be naive to think that the Davao experience can be replicated in a much more expansive, populous and crowded urban setting that is Metro Manila. But one never knows what can be accomplished with Davao’s brand of discipline.