Caught (up) in traffic

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Tools for traffic enforcement

March 2011


The MMDA recently acquired speed guns to enable them to measure vehicle speeds and catch violators of speeding regulations. A case in point is the ongoing efforts to reduce road crashes along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. Part of the effort is the enforcement of the 60 kilometer per hour speed limit that is applied to all vehicles. This, of course, is a simplification considering that ideally there are different speed limits for different types of vehicles if Philippine laws are to be reviewed. One problem with Commonwealth is that it is a very wide road with 8 to 10 lanes per direction depending on the section from Fairview to the Elliptical Road. All types of vehicles seem to be guilty of “over-speeding” but of particular concern were and are the buses that also have tended to change lanes quite frequently despite the maneuver being unnecessary.

Most private vehicles are also probably guilty of speeding at many points along the avenue. The wide road is indeed very tempting for cruising at high speeds much like what a driver may routinely do along expressways. The problem, of course, is that the avenue is not an expressway where access is restricted and there are practically no chance or instances of conflicts with pedestrians, vendors or typical public transport operations. And then there are also the ubiquitous median openings that have replaced at-grade intersections. These facilities have encouraged weaving and, arguably, aggressive driving in order to be able to maneuver to the nearest practical U-turn slot.

But going back to the speed guns; these are very handy tools for traffic enforcement. Based on what I saw on TV, the speed guns allow the operator to take a photograph of the guilty party’s vehicle and save this for downloading later at the office. The downloaded photos are then processed into a form (summons) that is sent to the owner of the vehicle who is assumed to be the driver of the vehicle caught by the speed gun’s camera. The person is given 7 days to pay the penalty/fine (PhP 7,500 accroding to the news reports) at the MMDA or at an accredited bank. If the person is unable to pay the fine, the MMDA will forward the violation to the LTO for flagging or tagging of the vehicle used. This tag will serve as an alarm for traffic law enforcers in case the vehicle is involved in another incident.

The speed gun is not an inexpensive tool and yet it is a very useful one if only to instill discipline to drivers in the form of speed management. Speeding is one manifestation of irresponsible or reckless driving, especially when combined with other maneuvers like frequent lane changing. It is also one of the most difficult to enforce since measurements are required and evidence must be strongly tied to a particular vehicle so that the match is “beyond reasonable doubt,” as lawyers may say.

Speed guns like the ones acquired by the MMDA will surely contribute to curbing speeding violations and reducing the incidence of crashes. However, this is currently limited to Commonwealth and there is definitely a need to acquire more instruments to enable the agency to enforce speed limits along other roads including perhaps EDSA and C5. At the very least, speed limits should be enforced along all the radial and circumferential roads. This is particularly important during the night time and probably the early mornings when many road crashes are associated with speeding violations that are obvious for the characteristic loss of control by the driver. The acquisition and proper use of additional units will go a long way into putting order to traffic along our roads and this order can be equated to ensuring that our travel ways will be safe for all users.

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