Time to amend driving laws - Weekend

Time to amend driving laws

Jerome NeriAtty. Jerome G. Neri
The Scrutineer

IN the past month, there have been headlines capturing motoring accidents. In Negros Occidental, two buses had a head-on collision. In Manila, a bus bound for Bulacan crashed and killed four people and injured many. In Cebu, a truck lost its brakes, killing a motorcyclist.

It seems to me that more and more people get killed every year in road accidents. In 2014, 47 deaths were reported in Cebu City alone. Too many lives are being lost in road accidents. The sad part is a lot of these accidents are avoidable and preventable.

There are two main causes of road accidents: human error and mechanical failure. The risk for these road accident causes can be massively reduced.

AFTER A FATAL MISHAP. Traffic enforcers directing traffic following a 10-vehicle smashup that left one dead and at least eight others injured in Canduman, Mandaue City earlier this month. The accident, which left pedestrians and residents in shock, had caused a monstrous traffic jam. (Sun.Star photo/Allan Cuizon)
AFTER A FATAL MISHAP. Traffic enforcers directing traffic following a 10-vehicle smashup that left one dead and at least eight others injured in Canduman, Mandaue City earlier this month. The accident, which left pedestrians and residents in shock, had caused a monstrous traffic jam. (Sun.Star photo/Allan Cuizon)

In the airline industry, every time there is a crash, it is thoroughly investigated. The root cause of the crash is determined and immediately steps are taken so that similar mishaps will not happen again. When there is human error, the checklists are reviewed and revised, and additional pilot training is put into place to minimize the risk for the same human error to occur again. When there is mechanical failure, the parts are thoroughly analyzed to get to the root cause of the failure, and the parts are immediately re-engineered. Today, air travel is the safest mode of transportation.

When it comes to Philippine land transportation, it appears to me that fatal accident investigations only goes up to which driver is at fault, or in case of mechanical failure, what part failed, and that’s it. In highly publicized cases involving buses and multiple deaths, the franchises of bus operators get suspended or revoked. A few weeks after, the same buses are plying the streets again. When it comes to the drivers and a death is involved, there are instances where the driver is immediately detained for investigation even if it is apparent that the driver is not at fault – he was just unlucky that the person at fault has perished. Our authorities simply find out where to point the finger, and it is the end of the investigation.

Right now, there is a move to have speed limiters installed in all buses. This move was spearheaded by James Deakin, a popular automotive journalist from Manila. The proposal is that the speed of the buses will be limited to 80 kph. This might help in reducing road accidents and death if the main cause of the road accidents is speed. But from the looks of it, speed is not the cause, and 80 kph can still be fatal.

The time has come that there’s a need for our land transportation laws to be amended with the focus on saving lives. I believe it is possible to pattern it from the airline industry. First and foremost, we need better quality drivers, both non-professionals and professionals. Before one can be given a license, a person must finish a formal driving course, where not only the operation of a motor vehicle is taught but also driving rules, regulations and etiquette. Many drivers on the road right now simply do not know the rules and etiquette of driving, and this ignorance is a major cause of congestion and accidents.

All motor vehicles must also be required to have a record of all its maintenance and repair work. The record must contain who performed the work, what parts were replaced, where the parts were sourced, and the brand of the parts used. This will enable investigators to find out why and who is at fault when there is mechanical failure on a vehicle that has caused an accident.

These simple suggestions are very doable.

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