Loco-in-Mo­tion

IS IT NEC­ES­SARY TO RE­STRICT SPEED WHEN TRAF­FIC IS AL­MOST AL­WAYS AT A STAND­STILL?

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents -

‘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.

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