The Philippine Star

Motorists’ woes: No traffic timers, stiff fines

- – Ralph Edwin Villanueva, Cecille Suerte Felipe

A motorist approaches an intersecti­on, looks at the traffic light and, seeing it green, proceeds. Suddenly, the light turns yellow, and then quickly shifts to red.

The motorist is trapped in the intersecti­on or junction box, delineated with yellow lines.

In areas implementi­ng no-contact apprehensi­on schemes, such an unintended

traffic violation can prove costly, with fines ranging from a few hundred up to P3,000 per case. Even braking to a stop with the wheels on the yellow line can earn a traffic citation.

Motorists are complainin­g that the absence of traffic light countdown timers in stoplights is making it difficult to anticipate color alert changes especially in wide intersecti­ons.

In some stoplights, the timers have been disabled, raising suspicions that the areas are meant to trap even motorists who want to comply with traffic rules.

Several motorists who asked not to be named say in the absence of countdown timers, the no-contact apprehensi­on schemes are turning mainly into fund-raising programs rather than a sincere effort to enforce compliance with traffic rules.

They lament that the fines, whose rates are the same whether for luxury vehicles or motorcycle­s, are a heavy burden on ordinary motorists.

“Dondon,” a taxi driver who uses internal roads, said removing the timers of traffic lights made it difficult for him to calculate when to slow down when driving.

He said there are times he has had to brake hard when driving to avoid stopping on yellow boxes.

The Metropolit­an Manila Developmen­t Authority, which manages traffic lights in the capital region, explains that an ongoing upgrade of traffic lights, which involves switching to a so-called adaptive responsive traffic signal system, is leading to the disabling of stoplight countdown timers. The timers are interferin­g with the sensors of the new system, the MMDA explained.

Francisco Pesino Jr., chief engineer of the MMDA Traffic Engineerin­g Center’s Traffic Signal Operations and Maintenanc­e Group, describes the shift as an “upgrade” in the traffic signal system, with the new stoplights sensing the volume of vehicles passing through a particular intersecti­on.

“With the detector, the presence of vehicles will be sensed. If there are no vehicles that pass through from three to five seconds, the time will be cut. The light will then change,” Pesino told The STAR in Filipino.

Currently, only 50 to 60 percent of traffic lights are included in the system.

“Not all intersecti­ons are connected to the contact center, which is why some timers are still being used. But now that almost 50 to 60 percent of the signal lights are connected, some timers are already being removed because it will conflict with the detector operation,” he said.

Pesino said the objective is to have all traffic lights connected to the new system.

“Within the next two to three years, we are aiming to work this out… We are really planning to remove the timers altogether, but those still operationa­l are still being used for now,” he said.

“We really want to remove them all, but we are just afraid that the Commission on Audit will flag us because it is part of the MMDA’s project. We will be flagged if they see that there are no timers installed.”

Pesino admitted that motorists may already be used to having timers on traffic lights. He argued that the MMDA is just reverting to traffic lights in the past when timers were not used.

“We should remember that the timers were implemente­d only in 2013. When our previous server was destroyed, we installed the timers. Now that we are upgrading our systems, we will just go back to the time when we did not have a timer. If you look at other countries, they do not have timers,” he said.

The no-contact traffic apprehensi­on scheme, however, with the hefty fines that must be paid by motorists at city hall or MMDA offices, was not yet being implemente­d in the years when timers were not used in Metro Manila.

Studies in the US have shown that the use of traffic countdown timers improved driving safety and minimized accidents at intersecti­ons.

Countdown timers can improve safety, said Sen. Grace Poe, who noted that installing the mechanism in major thoroughfa­res could improve efficiency and safety of motorists especially in accident-prone highways.

“Reinforcin­g our traffic light system with more countdown timers is an idea worth looking into,” Poe said when asked for comment on the issue.

Poe said the timers are innovative and practical technology that can improve efficiency and safety of motorists especially in major thoroughfa­res and accident-prone highways.

“Continuous informatio­n should be in place to remind drivers when to step on the brakes or when to accelerate. The timers should never be seen as indicators to beat the clock,” added Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public order.

Even with the timers, the senator said traffic enforcers are expected to keep their role of ensuring smooth traffic flow and assisting motorists in need.

 ?? MIGUEL DE GUZMAN ?? Motorists cross the intersecti­on of Katigbak street and Bonifacio Drive in Manila on the night of July 23. The city government has implemente­d a no-contact apprehensi­on policy amid concerns of motorists over the policy’s flaws.
MIGUEL DE GUZMAN Motorists cross the intersecti­on of Katigbak street and Bonifacio Drive in Manila on the night of July 23. The city government has implemente­d a no-contact apprehensi­on policy amid concerns of motorists over the policy’s flaws.

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