POSTSCRIPT / July 12, 2012 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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The Three E’s needed to survive EDSA mess

BRUISED VETERAN: As a taxpayer who drives on EDSA daily – and has been bumped and bruised a number of times — I claim vested rights to comment on how this 23.8-kilometer highway arching around the megacity is being mismanaged.

Just two days after the Metro Manila Development Authority banned trucks and buses from EDSA overpasses and tunnels because of accidents involving them, it made an exception of provincial buses.

Such sudden shifts – akin to swerving — indicate how shallow has been traffic management planning, as if the MMDA enjoys divine powers to experiment with our lives.

The fickle character of the rules, plus their being forgotten even before they take root, is one of the reasons why many drivers tend to take traffic rules as mere suggestions and road signs as graffiti.

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THREE E’S: Official figures have it that 2.34 million vehicles pass EDSA each day, although one caught in the rush hours could swear there are thrice that number madly clawing for space.

Number-coding, or the banning of a fifth of vehicles based on their license plate numbers, has not made a dent on the problem of overcrowding. How can it, when there is utter lack of training and discipline all around?

To bring system into its approach, maybe MMDA should step back and reexamine things through the Three E’s of the Automobile Association of the Philippines.

The Three E’s – Engineering, Education and Enforcement – may not provide a total solution, but they could teach traffic managers a few practical things.

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ROAD RISKS: Traffic officers have no right to ENFORCE the law or to crack down on drivers if the government has not bothered to do its requisite job under ENGINEERING and EDUCATION.

Enforcing the rules on ill-prepared drivers set loose on a bad road network is a Sisyphean chore. It is mission impossible.

How can a driver avoid swerving if he risks falling into ruts deep enough to destroy his vehicle’s undercarriage? (Expect ruts and frequent reblocking when superheavy trucks rumble freely on EDSA and destroy the pavement.)

How do we teach respect for traffic lights that change from green to yellow to red in a split second? Why are many traffic lights left deep into the night to change automatically and keep drivers waiting even when there is no cross traffic?

Why do we train motorists to drive like in a slalom by cluttering the road with misplaced U-turns blocked off by deadly concrete slabs?

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YELLOW, BLUE LANES: Traffic managers have marked off one or two outer lanes as yellow lanes for public utility vehicles.

But while private vehicles are banned from the yellow lanes (except when making a right turn), buses are not stopped from swerving out to grab lanes meant for private cars. This is not only very unsafe, it is most unfair.

In a sudden (but short-lived, because ill-planned) spurt of activity, MMDA painted a blue lane for motorcycles on EDSA. Why bother, when there is no intention to use the lane as advertised?

Motorcyclists must be color blind. They still merrily (sometimes fatally) dart in and out of the blue lane, assuming they know about it.

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LANE NUMBERS: Now and then, we see signs saying that motorcycles must use the fourth lane. But which is the fourth lane?

MMDA insists on numbering the lanes on multi-lane EDSA from the outside to the middle. With the avenue’s width varying from four to seven lanes in one direction, which is the fourth lane?

In left hand-drive countries where traffic management is more systematic, they number the lanes from the middle to the outside. The leftmost lane is always No. 1, the next one to its right is No. 2, and so on, up to the outermost lane.

This way, the blue motorcycle lane is always Lane No. 2, whatever the width of EDSA. In reporting accidents and ongoing road works, we can just say it is on Lane No. 3 (or whichever lane) and everybody knows where the problem is.

Those expensive electronic lights across EDSA giving advisories in long sentences are ill-advised. Beyond five words, a traffic advisory is an invitation to an accident. Drivers reading them like they do text messages on cellphones are courting disaster.

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WRONG CONDITIONING: When you are on the right lane and suddenly encounter a “Right Lane Must Turn Right” sign right at the intersection, but you intend to go straight, what do you do? You pay tong?

In many places, there is no limit line (that line before the pedestrian lane indicating where to stop). Without it, drivers do not know exactly where to position their vehicles without straddling the pedestrian lane.

Trouble is, some traffic officers motion drivers to move closer to the intersection, past the limit line and right on the pedestrian lane. They are in effect training drivers to ignore limit lines and disobey rules in general.

This is the same wrong conditioning by traffic officers manning left turns. If only Lane No. 1 is marked for left turns, why do they allow vehicles on Lanes No. 2 and 3 to crowd forward near the corner while waiting for the left-turn light and blocking through-traffic?

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CONTINUING EDUCATION: In the Education part of the Three E’s, we target for training not only drivers, but also the law enforcers themselves and pedestrians who sometimes abuse their priority rights.

We can start traffic education in high school – where would-be drivers, officers and pedestrians alike pass through. Driving, or at least road and traffic safety, can be woven into the curriculum.

From school, traffic safety will be part of every citizen’s continuing education especially for those who eventually end up in the cities.

Would you believe there was years ago a former LTO official who applied for a California driver’s license but failed the tests? Embarrassing, but true!

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 12, 2012)

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