Caught (up) in traffic

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Responding to the transport impacts of road crashes

Last March 9, traffic was terrible along Marcos Highway and roads connecting to it including Imelda Avenue and Sumulong Highway due to a truck that slammed into the scaffolding of the Line 2  Extension across the Sta. Lucia Mall, and barely missing the newly constructed column supporting the girders and elevated tracks of Line 2.

[Photo not mine but sent by an officemate who was glad to have taken his motorcycle that day instead of commuting by car.]

Following are comments I captured from Waze as I tried to get information about the traffic situation:

It is very clear from travelers’ comments that most were frustrated and many were angry about what seemed to be a very slow response from authorities in clearing the crash site and getting traffic to move faster. I myself wondered how a crash like this with its impacts manifesting in severe congestion along major roads was not dealt with as urgently as possible by so many entities that were not without capacity to act decisively. The front liner should have been the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and there were at least four local government units directly affected by the congestion: Pasig, Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo. Surely, these LGUs could have done more if the MMDA couldn’t, in order to resolve the problem? If the availability of heavy equipment was an issue, weren’t there available equipment from Line 2 contractor, DMCI, or perhaps from the construction sites nearby (Ayala is constructing a huge mall near the area.)? Surely, they could lend a payloader or mobile crane that can remove the truck or at least help unblock the area?

I finally decided to turn back and work from home instead that day. Later, I learned that authorities had to stop traffic along Marcos Highway around 11:00 AM in order to tow the truck and clear the area for traffic to normalize. I hope this serves as a lesson in coordination among government entities and that future incidents like this will not results in a “carmaggedon” like Friday’s congestion. One thing that also became obvious is that travelers passing the area are all dependent on road-based transport and the primary reason why a lot of people were affected by the crash. The expanded operations of the Line 2, whenever that will be, will surely change transport in these areas and for the better.

Road crashes in Antipolo

I open June with a post on road safety. Last week, I passed by many road crash scenes along my route between my home in Antipolo and my office in Quezon City. Many were the now common crashes involving motorcycles. And there were those involving vehicles that got too close to each other in heavy traffic (e.g., tailgating vehicles eventually bumping the vehicle ahead of them). I was able to get photos of the site of the more serious crashes.

13307257_10153462009341805_6791155744990208649_nHead on collision of a car and owner-type jeepney along Marcos Highway near the junction with Amb. Neri Road. These crashes are largely preventable if drivers kept to their lanes and refrained from violating the rule of the double yellow line separating opposing flows of traffic. I’ve written about counter flowing before but focused on it leading to traffic congestion. A more serious repercussion would be crashes like this.

13239089_10153455285346805_8706325794115208930_nOverturned passenger jeepney along Marcos Highway in Mambugan, Antipolo. Speeding and unnecessary manoeuvres along this highway often has led to drivers losing control of their vehicles and, in this case, the vehicle turning over and likely hurting (hopefully not killing) passengers. This is again a very preventable crash considering it can be addressed by proper (read: safe) driving as well as enforcement.

13254118_10153464105186805_1904392928926757965_nFinal ‘resting place’ of a truck that apparently lost control along the Tikling bound side of Ortigas Ave. Extension in Barangay Dolores, Taytay. I’ve noticed many breakdowns and crashes involving trucks along this highway as well as Sumulong Highway and Marcos Highway. Many, it seems, involve poor maintenance of these vehicles as well as overloading. Poorly maintained vehicles may lose control with or without their loads and lead to such crashes that in many cases are fatal to innocent bystanders.

With the onset of the rainy season, many roads will be slippery and this will tend to make them more dangerous. In the cases I mentioned above, most crashes are not the fault of the roads or the infrastructure but of the drivers and/or operators of the vehicles. Most crashes are preventable and are caused by driver error, negligence or aggressive behaviour. It is often the nut behind the wheel who is responsible for such crashes rather than the vehicle or the road.

Is a truck ban the solution to truck-related crashes in Antipolo?

The crash near Masinag Junction in Antipolo City that led fatalities, injuries, damage to property  and terrific costs due to the congestion was caused by a truck that apparently had defective brakes. I’ve read some posts on social media calling for a truck ban in Antipolo City. Some comments go as far as specifying major roads like Sumulong Highway and Marcos Highway where a truck ban can be ‘most effective’.

Is a truck ban in Antipolo City and particularly along major roads like Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway going to solve truck-related road safety issues? It should have some success but it does not address the root causes of the problem. Among these root causes are related to driver behaviour and the maintenance or condition of trucks. Issues pertaining to driver behaviour can be seen in the form of aggressive or reckless driving (e.g., speeding trucks, trucks weaving in traffic, overtaking at critical sections, etc.). Meanwhile, issues pertaining to vehicle maintenance/condition can be seen in instances where trucks climbing Sumulong Highway, Marcos Highway or Ortigas Ave. Extension tend to slow down traffic (overloaded and/or underpowered?) as well as in crashes involving the malfunctioning braking systems. These cannot be addressed through truck bans, which are likely to be more effective for cases of severe congestion that can be directly attributed to trucks.

A truck ban will only punish the good (read: disciplined and competent) drivers and responsible truckers/truck operators. Good drivers know their traffic rules and regulations and how to position themselves on the roads as well as the speeds they need to travel by together with mixed traffic. They exercise caution especially along areas where there are a lot of pedestrian activity (e.g., Masinag area, Mambugan, Cogeo, Tikling, Cainta Junction, etc.). Meanwhile, responsible trucking company operators would likely have more structured or organised maintenance regimes for their trucks and likely would have newer and standard (read: non-modified) vehicles in their fleets. These would be able to carry load according to their specifications and maneuver safely in varying traffic and road conditions. On a larger scale, truck bans will definitely have a detrimental impact on logistics that will carry over to the local economy as well as Antipolo is the origin of many goods/freight and much also pass through the city.

Tire conditions

While stopped at an intersection, my eyes wandered to look at the vehicles around me. I took a photo of the rear tires of a truck stopped beside me. Following are some observations about the tires:

  • Most if not all the tires were re-treads
  • Most of the tires are worn out
  • One tire is already damaged and should not have been used in the first place

IMG_0651

Such conditions of trucks’ tires reflect the state of many commercial vehicles in the country. The same observation applies to public utility vehicles. I guess there have been many instances of tire blow-outs involving trucks and jeepneys. These have not been reported as they often lead to traffic congestion (i.e., when a vehicle is forced to stop and block traffic), which is not at all an uncommon experience to many. Few perhaps have led to high profile road crashes featuring fatalities. Still, the potential for major crashes is there and it is contributory to disasters that are always just waiting to happen in many of our roads.

Sudden intended acceleration? Intended ones are more dangerous!

The motoring community in the Philippines has been in rather heated discussions regarding the Mitsubishi Montero’s alleged defect that causes what has been termed as ‘sudden unintended acceleration’ or SUA. This term refers to the vehicle suddenly, and without the driver doing anything, rapidly accelerating, forward or backward, and hitting anything in its path. The proofs to these alleged incidences are supposed to have been documented by many including videos that have been uploaded to YouTube and even shared or used by mainstream media. The vehicle’s manufacturer itself denies that there is a defect in the model(s) being cited for SUA. They have also released a new model of the vehicle in the market and most people not paranoid about SUA seem not to mind the buzz about the alleged defect. The new model, after all, is supposed to be free of that particular defect considering the manufacturer, despite its denials, should have been aware of the complaints and concerns.

Defect or none, I think what’s more dangerous is not the ‘sudden unintended acceleration’ of vehicles. In fact, I am not aware of any fatalities attributed to this and all the videos I’ve seen alleging the defect happened in parking lots and driveways. These have caused only minor injuries and, surely, damage to properties. What is more dangerous and should be the concern by all is the intended acceleration leading to speeding (or over-speeding) that is so common in our roads regardless of whether these are expressways or city streets. Such behaviour are almost always intended and therefore the drivers are very much aware of their actions and in control of their vehicles. In control, that is, until they hit something or, worse, someone. Such irresponsible and often reckless behavior plague our roads and one person’s folly can be the doom of others as is usually the case in road crashes involving (over)speeding.

“Gatong” comments by traffic enforcers

Friends who have been involved in a road crash have noted that traffic enforcers seem to have the propensity for making unnecessary remarks while attending to a crash scene. I have experienced this first hand. Some of the more common comments that enforcers make include:

– How crash or accident-prone an area is (citing issues in the area);

– How certain motorists are more likely to be involved in crashes (often referring to one of the parties involved); and

– How one party’s behavior leads or led to a crash (essentially blaming one party for the incident).

[You’re free to add a comment you heard yourself or someone else got from a crash scene.]

Traffic enforcers or police should not make such comments at the scene of a crash especially in front of the parties involved. It is not about whether they have the right to do so but whether it is appropriate coming from a person of authority who should first and foremost be neutral in such circumstances. For one, such unnecessary comments could affect how people involved in a crash could behave. Generalized statements could wrongly favor one party over the other simply because a person of authority made a comment to the contrary of how things really happened. Enforcers should be neutral and go about their business in getting the facts about an incident and proceed in making the formal report for the crash. Even the investigator assigned to the scene should be as objective as possible in order to have a fair assessment of the incident.

Risky switching of lanes

Many Filipino drivers have the propensity for frequently changing lanes. These happen even at locations where they are not supposed to be changing lanes (e.g., at intersections, while going up or down a steep slope, at curves, etc.). Such maneuvers are risky and basically among the reasons why there are double yellow solid lane markings separating opposing traffic at these sections. I have seen many incidents where in a matter of seconds at least one person is suddenly inconvenienced by the crash. I say at least one person because whether traffic is light or heavy, there will be vehicles slowing down and causing a chain reaction of other vehicles slowing down to stop or avoid the vehicles involved in the collision. These incidents occur because of at least one person’s propensity for suddenly switching lanes.

2014-11-22 17.54.13The rear bumper of a car gets torn-off (not just detached) by the bull bar of a vehicle whose driver decided to suddenly shift to the right. Apparently, the guilty driver was not able to factor his vehicle’s bull bar when he immediately encroached on the adjacent lane.

2014-11-22 17.54.24A closer look at the damage on the vehicle in front of us. We had to change lanes ourselves in order to avoid the stopped car. We could only imagine the traffic build-up resulting from the incident at the C5-Lanuza intersection.

I’m not sure how these people learned to drive. Driving schools will likely claim that they did their part in instructing their students/clients the proper way to drive. However, going through driving school is not an assurance for responsible driving. What more can be said for people who learned to drive the informal way (i.e., taught by a friend, relative or other people). Of course, this could have been addressed early on if the licensing system under the Land Transportation Office (LTO) was a lot stricter and exercised due diligence in their licensing examinations.