Caught (up) in traffic

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Overspeeding

January 2011
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I drove to and from the airport early this morning and couldn’t help but notice that there are just too many over-speeding vehicles even considering that it was 2AM/3AM. It is quite normal for motorists to take advantage of the light traffic and drive their vehicles fast. In traffic flow theory, this is termed as free flow, when drivers have the freedom to select speeds (free flow speed) since there are significantly less vehicles on the road. This does not necessarily mean that drivers may opt to increase speed to approximate an aircraft’s take off run. It is not necessary and above all, it is irresponsible.

Should the person be driving under the influence (probably going home from a session with friends), then the combination of speed and heightened blood alcohol level would highly likely lead in a crash. Most often these are fatal road crashes, the ones we usually see in the morning news where authorities and viewers can only shake their heads and come to the conclusion that maybe the driver was speeding and/or the driver had a drink too many. The saddest part is when these drivers involve others who were driving safely but where involved anyway due to the behavior of the guilty party. These result in the unnecessary loss of lives, injuries and damage to property.

There is no legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) in the Philippines. But this is not to say that we do not have references from countries that do have one. In the US that limit is 0.08 while in Japan it is practically zero. This simply means that if a police officer or traffic enforcer apprehends you with a suspicion that you are driving under the influence (DUI), you are required to take a breathalyser test to determine if indeed you are intoxicated. They are quite strict in these countries who have a lot of experiences of road crashes involving drunk drivers. And proof of this are news of celebrities, athletes and other well-known people getting apprehended and punished for such irresponsible behavior. That is why in other countries, there are designated drivers who are not supposed to drink or, especially in cases where public transport is available, people choose not to drive at all.

Then there are those who have the propensity to speed up but are actually too tired or too sleepy to drive safely. I was able to catch an episode of Myth Busters where they were able to establish that drowsiness or being sleepy can be equally or even more dangerous than being intoxicated. When one falls asleep, even what seemed to be a short wink, can lead to tragedy. And we have often heard of stories where the survivors of a crash claim that the driver was nakatulog (fell asleep) .

Still, most of the drivers of the vehicle I observed this early morning seem to be neither sleepy, intoxicated or, God forbid, bangag (under the influence of drugs). Many seem to be the aggressive types, which more often are the reckless types, too. Call it stereotyping and over-generalizing but from what I saw this morning, many of the speedsters happen to be on modified vehicles and many of them had the tell-tale markings of a wannabe race car driver based on the decals or stickers and the vehicle designs.”Kulang na lang pakpak at lilipad na.” (The only thing lacking are wings and the vehicle will be taking off.) What is worrisome is that they do not only speed but also tend to change lanes in tight situations where other vehicles have formed platoons (e.g., slow-moving trucks or cars that have matched speeds). This creates situations where the slightest mistake may result in a road crash.

In the absence of high speed cameras like the ones installed along the expressways to take photos of over-speeding vehicles as proof when authorities apprehend them at the exits, there are supposed to be police officers or traffic enforcers on mobile units posted along major highways to serve as deterrents to over-speeding and other traffic violations at this time of day. I did see some of them in their vehicles along Circumferential Road 5 (C5) but they seem to be either disinterested or, believe it or not, sleeping! The latter I saw for my own eyes as I was pulling out of a gas station where I took a toilet break just after seeing another one of those wannabe race cars zip by. It was an MMDA vehicle (a pick-up) with what I counted as 4 occupants who appeared to be sleeping considering that their seats were reclined. I just hope I was wrong and that they were only resting after really doing their jobs. To be fair, they might be really tired after making rounds and just let the speedster go by since they couldn’t probably catch up to the vehicle given the speeds. But then again, it is when they take time off when tragedy usually occurs and it is expected of our officials to be on their toes and to be wide awake to respond to such situations in order to prevent crashes from happening in the first place.


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