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Road safety history – first fatality and crash

Have you ever wondered when the first road crash involving a motor vehicle occurred? Or who was the first person to die (i.e., fatality) in a car crash? Here’s a brief but informative article on this topic:

Sal (April 15, 2022) “Who Was the First Person Ever to Die in a Car Crash?” Medium.com, https://sal.medium.com/who-was-the-first-person-ever-to-die-in-a-car-crash-8385add6cbcb [Last accessed: 4/20/2022]

Were you surprised about the 3 mph speed of the car that ran over the first fatality involving a car? That’s really slow considering the speeds of vehicles these days and how high speed limits are along streets where there are many pedestrians. Meanwhile, the circumstances about the first crash appears to be similar to what we still have now. That is, reckless driving, increasing speed limits and (truth be told) pedestrians not being aware of their surroundings (say what you will but the car was traveling at 4 mph and there was a claim that the driver tried to get the attention of the victim to no avail). I agree though with the author that this was a portent of worse things to come as road crashes has become a top killer and health concern.

More frequent road crashes?

My personal observations during my commutes lead to a conclusion that there is indeed an increase in the number of road crashes and perhaps this is attributable to the conditions during this pandemic. During my almost daily trips the past weeks, I have witnessed or passed by road crash incidents. These mostly involved motorcycles but last Friday, there was severe congestion along Ortigas Avenue due to a large truck that slammed into a post and ended up blocking most of the westbound lanes of the road. Yesterday, my wife sent me photos of a truck on its side after also being involved in a crash where it was reported that the driver lost control of the vehicle. Also involved, based on the Taytay report posted on their social media page, was a tricycle whose passengers sustained minor injuries. The incident could easily have been fatal to those involved considering the truck hitting the tricycle.

Approaching the crash site – the Taytay Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (MDRRMO) looks to be on the job to address the situation
A closer look at the overturned truck

So are these incidents to be called accidents like how media and local governments still label them? These appear to be preventable. For one, vehicle-related problems could have been addressed by proper maintenance of the vehicle. But then there is also the question of whether the drivers or riders involved in these crashes were practicing safe driving or riding. Were they speeding or doing any risky maneuver? Were they aggressive or reckless? These are but a few factors that come into play and that led to a crash such as the one shown in the preceding photos.

On the increase of road crash fatalities during the pandemic

The general observation has been that roads have become less safe as drivers and riders have tended to speed up their vehicles during this pandemic. Speeding up apparently is just part of a bigger picture and even bigger concern considering what is perhaps also an issue related to mental health. We’ve read, heard or watched something about people’s transformation once they are behind the wheel or riding their motorcycles. I remember a Disney cartoon showing how Goofy transforms from being mild-mannered to somewhat demonic once behind the wheel of the car. The article below reinforces that and relates this behavior with the pandemic.

To quote from the article:

Art Markman, a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, said that such emotions partly reflected “two years of having to stop ourselves from doing things that we’d like to do.”

“We’re all a bit at the end of our rope on things,” Dr. Markman said. “When you get angry in the car, it generates energy — and how do you dissipate that energy? Well, one way is to put your foot down a little bit more on the accelerator.”

UN General Assembly resolution on road safety

I’m posting here the 9-page resolution on road safety of the United Nations General Assembly that was recently (August 2020) passed by the body. This is the key resolution that launched a second Decade of Action for Road Safety, 2021-2030. The document may also be downloaded from the net. Here is a link to the document via the Asia Pacific Road Safety Observatory site:

https://www.aprso.org/document/policies-and-plans/un-general-assembly-resolution-road-safety-august-2020

Road crash at NAIA Terminal 1 parking area

[Warning graphic content]

Last May 30, I was picking up my wife at the airport and heard a loud crash as I was getting my ticket for the NAIA Terminal 1 parking lot. I looked around but could not see anything that could concern me. As I rounded the driveway though, I noticed the vehicles in front of me already slowing down. This was the scene that greeted us:

Van in an awkward position against the bushes of the parking lot fence and after colliding with a parked SUV. Security staff were already there and one person (the driver of the van?) seemed out of sorts.

As I continued my drive, I saw this gruesome scene of a person who was likely hit by the van when it crashed into the limited access gate of the parking lot:

The casualty of the incident was lying on the ground with security personnel apparently more concerned about the damaged gate than attending to the person.

Another look at the damaged gate that the van punched through before finally crashing into the SUV and the bushes as shown in the first photo.

I’m not sure if this incident was featured in the news. It surely is something that would likely be not attract so much attention as it may not be as ‘newsworthy’ as other incidents that have happened recently. That is often the case with road crashes, which seem to be regarded as something typically occurring.

One thing we get and should realize from this is that everyone is indeed vulnerable from road crashes. The casualty in the photo (I assume only one) was likely someone who was there waiting for a relative or a client to arrive. Large groups and even whole families may be found at the airport parking lot as they wait for loved ones to arrive. The victim probably was just wiling his time, even texting people about his status, when tragedy struck that night.

On motorcycle taxis becoming the new “king of the road”

There is a really nice feature on Sunstar about motorcycle taxis that came out today. This was shared by a good friend on his social media account, which got my attention as we just completed a study on motorcycles last January 2017. Here is the feature:

New King of the Road – Part I

Part I includes two articles:

Ilano, M.V. (2017) Habal-habal invades cities, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Anunciado, D.D. (2017) Deadly motorcycle rides, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Here’s a graphic from the second article that says a lot about motorcycle safety in Metro Manila:

I would just like to comment that the graphic shows MMDA-recorded crashes in Metro Manila. There can be a lot of incidents that went unrecorded or unreported with the MMDA. It would be interesting to check with the local government units about their own statistics and compare these with the MMDA’s. Also, “crashes” is the preferred term over “accidents” as road safety practitioners and advocates argue that these are preventable incidents.

Sadly, such statistics can only be shown by cities doing the diligent work of recording such incidents. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has already ceased collecting, processing, analyzing and reporting road crash reports many years ago (which is quite surprising for an agency mandated to plan, design, construct and maintain national roads). There is currently no agency (no, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has not yet taken over the enormous task) that is collecting, processing, analyzing and reporting on road crashes at a nationwide scale and few LGUs do so at their levels.

I will also post about Part II once its out. There is a preview of what articles will be in the next feature and so that is something to look forward to.

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.