Krusada: Road accidents

Posted at 01/15/11 6:34 PM

Anchor: Tony Velasquez

Courtesy is most important in driving. It saves lives, time and money. Regardless of adverse conditions or mistakes of other drivers on the road, motorists should always remain defensive and not give in to frustration. The risk of driving is reduced by anticipating dangerous conditions that may surface if one does not follow the traffic system.

Etiquette should be the first lesson in driving schools. It is the number one law when one frequents the roads but on the contrary, the amount of motorists who lack simple driving etiquette is increasing over the years.

Traffic jams, road rage incidents, and vehicular accidents are turning to be normal fare in the country’s main roads and highways due to reckless driving.

The lack of discipline and complete disregard of traffic rules have led to not just wasted time but destruction of both property and life. With the growing accident rate in the Philippines, it has become safe to say that most Filipino drivers have really changed from the stereotype “sweet lovers” to “accident-lovers.”

In this episode of Krusada, Tony Velasquez sought to find the source of the road safety problem in the country. It has been Velasquez’s crusade to inculcate discipline among motorists in order to lessen if not eradicate the incidence of accidents in the country’s thoroughfares.

Velasquez also looked into the government to investigate if the tragedies are due to inefficient infrastructures and systems in the streets.

Human error in road accidents

There are three focal causes of vehicular accidents: mechanical (automobile) error, environmental error (like poorly designed or slippery roads) and human error. Accordingly, eighty percent of road mishaps are caused by the drivers themselves.

President of the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) Augusto Lagman says that 10,000 deaths per year are due to human error.

According to the records of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Highway Patrol Group, over 20,000 road accidents are reported in 2009. Therefore, an average of 54.7 accidents happen everyday.

More than 300,000 accidents were recorded by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) from the year 2005 to 2010. Motorcycle accidents rise based on the figures with a total of 53,243 reported cases. Sadly, in the status quo, more and more motorists are not adhering to the Helmet Law. Most families also use their motorcycles (even scooters) as their family car, bringing their children with them while driving along dangerous highways.

Velasquez zoomed in on a recent road mishap that shocked the nation: the Star Tollway tragedy that killed seven and injured four people earlier this year including three minors.

The Festijo Family was on their way to Batangas after celebrating their family reunion last January 2. Passing along the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Tollway in Ibaan town, a passenger bus speeded to overtake a private car. Unluckily, the bus hit the rear portion of the car rather than moving past it. The bus swerved to the opposite direction then crashed into the oncoming passenger jeepney where the Festijo family was riding.

Husband and wife Fransisco and Jocelyn Festijo as well as driver Zosimo and his ten-year-old daughter Maricris Festijo died in the incident.

Elizardo Festijo and children Jermel (13 years old) and Lawrence (2 years old) were also among those who passed away.

Annabelle Festijo, survivor of the accident recalls the accident that killed her family.

“Walang tumutulong sa akin. Ang ginagawa noong mga tao na nakasakay sa mga bus, kukunan ako ng cellphone. Video. Kaway ako ng kaway. Parang awa niyo na, buhay pa itong mga ‘to. Dalhin niyo sa ospital.”

Aurelio Doctora, driver of the GASAT passenger bus was released from jail after the family failed to file a case against him and/or his company.

Nevertheless, Annable wants to focus on her family and the two children who are still in the intensive care unit or ICU. Pressing for charges against Doctora is no longer her priority. Furthermore, she remains optimistic despite her great loss.

“Sa ngayon, humuhugot ako ng lakas kasi meron pa akong dalawang anak na nasa ospital. May pamangkin akong nasa ospital. Kailangan nila ng lakas namin para maka-survive sila. Palagay ko meron akong misyon sa buhay kaya ganito. Binuhay pa rin ako. May misyong nakalaan.”

MMDA: On command

Pinoys have the mentality that it is alright to do wrong as long as they are not caught. This mentality is carried over to our highways as drivers are said to have no discipline on the road especially when there are no traffic officers—when there are no eyes to enforce the law.

But there is an addition in MMDA’s Command Center: Closed-circuit television or CCTV monitoring.

Using CCTV cameras, MMDA can watch over various streets and highways in their Metro Base as supplement to their street traffic enforcers. MMDA spokesperson Yves Gonzalez claims that drivers become more alert when there are cameras.

“As a culture, when we know someone is policing us, whether it’s a warm body or technology, we tend to behave.”

Gonzalez showed Velasquez their traffic monitors as well as their axis cameras.

“It can pan and zoom. Umiikot siya and can zoom up to 20 times. Hindi siya secret location, kasi nga we tweet out these pictures and you can figure out kung saan naka-position ‘yong camera. We want people to know we are watching”, he explains.

Gonzales also says that MMDA can respond to situations better now that they have this technology.

“For example, 136 gets a call na may stalled vehicle sa EDSA corner Ortigas, CCTV can say look around, look around yung camera makita na may stalled vehicle nga, sasabihin sa radio operators: rescue pakidala naman ng tow truck sa EDSA Ortigas. So that’s how it goes.”

More accidents happen at night, says Edward Gonzales of MMDA Road Emergency Group. From an average of 5-7 runs during the day, it reaches to at least 15-20 responses at night.

Despite having new cameras, MMDA says it is not enough to monitor major roads like that of Commonwealth which is known as the “killer highway” because of the many and frequent accidents that happen along the stretch.

MMDA Asec. Tina Velasco says that they have added three more to the seven CCTV cameras along Commonwealth but asserts that it is still not enough to patrol the entire highway.

“Definitely ten is not enough. But we’re coming from a 62-base, meaning we don’t have much but we’re spreading it, especially on critical areas and every extra CCTV camera that we have goes to Commonwealth right now.”

Velasco says MMDA also has new suggested projects for road safety design akin to having a Bus Rapid Transit System, service roads for jeepneys and roundabouts.

“Based on the two studies that we have, we did see a 200% increase in speed and a careful behavior when you reach the rotunda in some parts of the candidates that we have.”

MMDA admits that more than the lack of equipment, they also lack enforcers to impose laws on the road.

“The biggest problem among government agencies is enforcement. There are challenges. Hindi po namin mapapagkaila that we’re still a work in progress. When we get reports of anomalies or lack of enforcement, we take that seriously and act accordingly. Internally we also reorganize our teams, leaders, and we’re also getting more consultants just to seek for everybody’s help.”, Velasco ends.

Avoiding Accidents

More than abiding by traffic rules and regulations, clinical psychologist Dr. Estrella Magno says that motorists, either public or private, should take care of themselves. Drivers should not drive when hungry, sleepy, angry and depressed. Eat to remain focused and resolve problems before sitting behind the steering wheel. If followed, these necessary precautions will lessen the incidences of road accidents. January 13, 2010