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On emergency vehicles, speeds and road widths
I recall an online discussion about how roads need to be wide to accommodate emergency vehicles such as fire trucks/engines, ambulances and police vehicles. There are also videos shared on social media about how, with wide roads, motorists could move their vehicles to the sides to give way to emergency vehicles. These are used to support the argument that we need wide roads and that speeding for emergency vehicles is justified because of their purpose. The following article attempts to make a counter-argument:
Lewis, M. (November 21, 2022) “Ambulances vs. Pedestrians,” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/blogs/119785-ambulances-vs-pedestrians [Last accessed: 11/24/2022]
To quote from the article:
“the “emergency response” argument in favor of wide streets only makes sense if the risk of death from a too-slow ambulance outweighs the risk of death from a speeding car.”
Certainly, the data on road crashes due to speeding should support the perception that there’s a higher risk of death from speeding vehicles compared to the risk of dying in relation to the emergency that’s supposedly being responded to. And in our country, perhaps this counter-argument is valid considering the “wang-wang” type of emergency vehicles moving about.
Another crash along NLEX – losing control?
We were returning from Clark last week when we chanced upon a crash site along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). We already suspected this as we approached a build-up of traffic along the southbound direction where there is usually free-flowing traffic. Here are some photos of an overturned vehicle on the median. It seems like it is the only vehicle involved as there were no other vehicle in the vicinity that could have been involved. However, it is possible that there was another vehicle involved in a situation where the overturned vehicle’s driver lost control after interacting with the other vehicle. Obviously both vehicles could have been traveling at high speeds (they are on an expressway) so this could have been an example where the combination of speeding and weaving in traffic led to an overturned vehicle (i.e., one lost control).
The need for speed (limits)?
My social media newsfeed regularly contains updates being posted by various entities about transport and traffic in Metro Manila and across the Philippines. Among those I regularly see are posts on road safety and interesting to me are the frequent posts on legislating speed limits at the local level. These are in the form of city or municipal ordinances that are supposed to strengthen, supplement and/or clarify speed limits that are actually already stated in the road design guidelines of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). These limits apply not only to national roads but to local ones as well. However, their effectiveness may be limited or reduced by the absence or lack of signs, markings and, most importantly, traffic law enforcers who are supposed to monitor traffic and apprehend those violating rules and regulations.
While there is a need for defining and clarifying speed limits perhaps in the form of local legislation, I believe the more urgent matter is the implementation and enforcement of laws. It has often been mentioned that we already have so many laws, rules, regulations and the truth is we do, and may not need more. One really has to go back to the basics in terms of enforcing these laws and that means enforcers need the knowledge and tools to be effective in their work. There is an opinion that many enforcers are not knowledgeable about many rules and regulations and therefore are prone to just focus on a few including violations of the number coding scheme, truck bans and the much maligned “swerving”. You do not often seen apprehensions for beating the red light, beating the green light (yes, there is such a violation), speeding, or “counter-flowing” (or using the opposing lane to get ahead of traffic in the correct lanes). There are also turning violations as well as those involving vehicle (busted tail lights, busted headlights, busted signal lights, obscured license plates, etc.). More recently, there are anti-drunk-driving laws that also urgently need proper implementation.
I think the current work that includes sidewalk clearing operations and anti-illegal on street parking of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is one good example of going back to the basics. These address the necessity of clearing space for both pedestrians and vehicles; space that have been constrained by obstacles that should not be there in the first place but so often have gotten the blind eye treatment. Going to the “next level” though requires tools such as speed guns, high speed cameras at intersections, and instruments for measuring blood alcohol levels in the field (breath analyzers). And these require resources for acquisitions as well as capability building in the form of training personnel to handle equipment. No, I don’t think we need more laws, rules and regulations. What we urgently if not direly need is their proper implementation to effect behavior change that will improve both safety and the flow of traffic.