Caught (up) in traffic

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Give way!

Road courtesy can be a scarce thing in many Philippine roads. In many road crash incidents, it can be quite obvious even to the casual observer that one of the problems we have is drivers and riders not practicing common courtesy. Hindi nagbibigayan. This is the case in most intersections where no traffic signals are installed and operational. Congestion occurs as drivers and riders try to impose their right of way over others. The absence of traffic personnel, even those who have limited capabilities managing traffic, further exacerbates the situation as motorists tend to ignore traffic personnel. Based on my observations, the most guilty of ignoring traffic rules and regulations including the enforcer on duty are motorcycle riders, followed by public utility vehicle drivers.

Below is a scene that greeted me one morning during my commute to my workplace. Maj. Dizon is a secondary national road passing through a residential area in Quezon City and Marikina; connecting  C-5 with Marcos Highway.

Who had the right of way here? Did the private car have the ROW and the taxi driver tried to impose himself (cut into the path of the private car) thinking that the private car driver will slow down to give way? Or did the taxi driver have the ROW but then the private driver decided to accelerate so as to prevent the taxi from completing the maneuver? Either are likely cases and are often the cause of crashes like this.

Other situations that are common are vehicles maneuvering (e.g., backing or turning) but tricycle drivers and motorcycle riders proceeding despite the clear ROW for the maneuvering vehicles. In certain cases, large vehicles like trucks have blind sides and have resulted in their inadvertently hitting motorcycles who riskily and recklessly maneuver with respect to the trucks.

How do we address such behavior? It likely is rooted from how drivers and riders learn to drive or ride so its starts with that stage. Many people learn to drive or ride from peers or their seniors (e.g., parent, uncle, family driver, company driver, etc.) while others learn via driving schools. Do they learn courtesy from their ‘teachers’? Are driving schools imparting this or just teaching people how to operate a vehicle? Then there is the licensing stage. The Land Transportation Office (LTO) is also responsible for assessing whether those applying for licenses are qualified. Both the written and practical exams should contain elements related to the practice of courtesy. And then there is the enforcement aspect, which has the burden of educating drivers and riders by accosting and reminding (lecturing?) motorists about proper driving and riding etiquette. Of course, you have to have capable enforcers in the field whether they be traffic aides or police officers.

Seemingly minor violations that affect traffic and safety

The following photo shows one of the many minor violations that happen everyday along many roads and particularly at intersections. Motorcyclists and drivers frequently occupy spaces that are supposed to be clear of vehicles. The motorcycles and AUV below occupy the pedestrian crossing that is typically space for pedestrians and cyclists crossing the intersection. Both vehicles also are encroaching upon the intersection’s yellow box, which can be risky given that the intersection is signalised and other vehicles are given the right of movement according to the cycle settings of the intersection.

Encroach intersection

This and others like it are what seems to be minor incidents but in truth have a combining or cumulative effect on traffic streams that contribute to congestion as well as having implications on road safety. Pedestrians and cyclists are forced to go around the vehicles blocking their paths, likely putting them in harm’s way. Other motorists try to avoid these errant vehicles, which, like in the photo, may be blocking the path of vehicles proceeding towards the intersection leg to the right that is hidden in the picture. Motorists doing this must be apprehended by traffic officers/enforcers as these are clear violations of traffic rules. If one is to promote discipline among road users, then it should start with minor violations that tend to be disregarded by traffic enforcers.

Monuments to recklessness or carelessness?

Our recent trip to a resort in Batangas required for us to take a local road that was both narrow and winding. The roadside revealed what remained of a bus that was involved in a crash not too long ago. This was a crash where many of the passengers perished. Many of the fatalities were teachers who attended a workshop held in a venue in the area.

IMG_2357Remains of the bus wreck along the local road in Mataas na Kahoy, Batangas

IMG_2358From the looks of the wreck, it is difficult to assume that no one perished here. Passengers seldom wear their seat belts when riding a bus and a crash would mean passengers literally flying around inside the bus. It would have been difficult to avoid serious injury at the least for those who were in the bus. 

IMG_2359This is the scene that will greet travellers to Mataas na Kahoy, Batangas. Gruesome but it drives the point regarding road safety. The wreck serves as a strong reminder to drive safely no matter what in order to avoid such incidents.

Voyeurism

This seems to be an unusual topic for this blog. However, I thought I’d comment about voyeurism in relation to transport or traffic as I observed a lot of people having cameras installed on their vehicle’s dash boards and local government units utilizing CCTV cameras for monitoring traffic.

In the case of LGUs, while there are already many cases where action was taken by authorities for traffic violations and other anomalies that they see on their camera, there are still as many cases when there are no actions taken to address issues. These include instances where CCTV cameras recorded reckless driving or riding and the videos were clear enough to identify the vehicles involved. These videos were likely not used to

Then there is the concern with motorists who have dash cams and are able to record reckless driving and other issues as they travel. Some post their videos on social media with the more interesting ones becoming click baits as they are shared by many. I found it disturbing that people take videos of road crashes and appear not to help the victims. They are essentially voyeurs, too. Posting these things on social media doesn’t count as help. It seems insensitive and unemphatic for people to be recording stuff and saying something about how these shouldn’t be and yet do nothing about the situation. Certainly, these are sins of omission that can be regarded along the lines of the sins committed that they recorded and shared.

Buses giving way to pedestrians

We saw a sign on a bus at Bonifacio Global City (BGC). Hopefully, the drivers of all buses plying routes in BGC practice this and stop for pedestrians crossing at the designated lanes. Perhaps they should also be proactive in stopping also for jaywalkers as this is the safe practice even if these pedestrians also endanger others by crossing juts anywhere including the most unsuitable places (e.g., blind spots).

IMG_0794Signs at the back of a Fort Bus including one regarding giving way to pedestrians crossing at designated lanes. Another sign cautions drivers of following vehicles about the bus making wide turns. These are good for promoting road safety.

Counterflow culture: pang-iisa

There are several videos currently circulating in social media showing counter-flowing motorists. In one, a driver with a camera on his dashboard proactively positions his vehicle along the middle lane of the correct side of the road and engages a counterflowing motorist who initially appeared as if he were going to insist on his wrong behavior (feeling entitled perhaps?). The driver with the dash cam didn’t budge or give way and the errant driver had to go back to his correct lane.

In another, more serious video, another dash cam records a scene along a curved 2-lane section of Marcos Highway where an oncoming motorcycle slammed into a counterflowing vehicle coming from the left side of the vehicle with the dashcam. It was clear that the counterflowing motorist violated the double yellow line rule, which led to the dreadful crash.

These are examples of what seems to be a counterflow epidemic among many motorists. Counterflowing is not only prevalent among motorcycles and public utility vehicles but among private vehicles as well. There are even those who follow emergency vehicles that legitimately and urgently use the opposing traffic lane. This behavior seems to be associated with these motorists wanting to get ahead of others. In Filipino or Tagalog, the term is translated to pang-iisa or gustong maka-isa (wanting to get one up on other people). This behavior can be attributed to a person being impatient, undisciplined, reckless, feeling entitled, or – all of the above.

Such issues could have been preempted by a stricter licensing system that can be administered by the Land Transportation Office (LTO). However, since many already have their licenses then the burden for correcting such behavior falls upon traffic enforcement agencies and their personnel including the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) and the MMDA. Hopefully, such errant behavior can be corrected and our roads can be safer for all users.

Endangering others by your behavior on the road

A major concern in road safety is the behavioral aspect that includes the attitudes of drivers and riders. Aggressive and irresponsible driving can be observed along many Philippine roads including low traffic roads along which there is a tendency for motorists to speed up. Social media contains many posts of videos showing reckless behaviour (e.g., vehicles zig-zagging along roads), placing other road users in danger with the possibility of crashes involving or influenced by these same vehicles. There are also posts of photos allegedly taken by speedsters boasting of the high speeds they are able to attain or cruise along on tollways and even regular roads.

Such behavior, however, may be influenced by strict and proper enforcement of traffic rules and regulations. I would like to believe that it it should be easier these days to determine if vehicles are speeding beyond the safe speeds roads are designed for. There are many tools such as speed guns or radars. However, these are few with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) having only two guns at their disposal. Operators of NLEX and SLEX are supposed to have their own speed guns and they have been apprehending speedsters as best they can. However, it seems that there are still many who are not apprehended and continue to pose as dangers to their fellow travelers. (I assume that those apprehended may also continue to speed up and do not get caught in most times they do.)

One creative approach for traffic law enforcement should be to browse social media of posts by people who claim to be running their vehicles at high speeds, violating road speed limits. Speeding is dangerous because drivers and riders will have less control over their vehicles and other elements affecting the vehicle. Perhaps the Land Transportation Office’s (LTO) enforcement arm should have an internet unit charged with searching for such cases online and investigate the identities of these people in order to flag them in the LTO licensing system?

speedingExample photo posted on social media where the driver boasts of his reaching high speeds while driving in a Metro Manila road.