POSTSCRIPT / August 18, 2022 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Refine no-contact apprehension idea

One good deterrent to the violation of traffic rules is the certainty of being caught and punished. But now that we have this efficient No Contact Apprehension Program (NCAP) being enforced in selected places, motor vehicle owners and some politicos are complaining.

The No Contact Apprehension Program. allows MMDA traffic enforcers to keep watch and track traffic law violators Photo: Philstar/ Michael Varcas

Protests have been raised by transport groups and petitions filed with the Supreme Court to strike down NCAP or suspend its enforcement in the meantime. Congressional inquiries are being pressed by affected sectors.

Under NCAP, electronic gadgets have been installed in certain places, usually at intersections notorious for traffic violations. Surveillance cameras record violations and the videos are used to impose penalties, such as fines.

The notices of violations, with accompanying video proofs, usually surprise vehicle owners who did not have the chance to question the citation at the time and place of the alleged traffic offense.

While NCAP is not perfect, we think it should be given a chance. During this period of adjustment, the community should focus more on refining it, rather than aborting it.

The no-contact apprehension system has been in use in many countries and is well on its way to becoming a standard part of traffic management enhanced by computer technology.

With its impersonal and technically reliable documentation of offenses, NCAP has discouraged willful traffic violations while helping raise revenues.

As of this month, Parañaque, Valenzuela, Manila, San Juan City, Quezon City, Cauayan (in Isabela), and Bataan have been using the same technology in their no contact apprehension programs.

Mayors Joy Belmonte of QC, Wes Gatchalian of Valenzuela, Eric Olivarez of Parañaque, Honey Lacuna of Manila, Frances Zamora of San Juan and MMDA chairman Carlo Dimayuga III have signed a manifesto saying that their NCAP ordinances:

Minimize human intervention in traffic enforcement, thereby eliminating corruption; instill a culture of discipline among motorists and improve driving behavior; ensure road safety as it reduces traffic violations and accidents; and afford due process through their traffic adjudication boards.

The government does not spend a single peso on operating the system while it helps boost revenues. It is fast, effective and highly reliable in detecting traffic violators using programs based on a city’s traffic code and ordinance without human intervention.

When a car speeds or beats the red light, for instance, the camera captures the incident and sends the image to the traffic center for processing. The image includes the car license plate, among other details photographed even at night or during heavy rains.

The information sent to the traffic center housing the Land Transportation Office database is used to produce a notice of violation detailing the infraction, coupled with a photo and video grab, and the procedures for settling the case.

 The 3E’s of traffic management

This brings up the so-called Three E’s of traffic management: Engineering, Education, and Enforcement – to which we have presumed to add a fourth E, which is E-Management.

We first heard of the Three E’s from the late ace car-racer Conrado “Dodo” Ayuyao, president for 18 years of the Philippine Motor Association (forerunner of the Automobile Association of the Philippines).

Advocates of the Three E’s argue that the authorities hardly have any moral right to go into Enforcement of traffic rules unless they ensure that the first two E’s of Education and Engineering are in place.

The government must see to it that roads are built according to safe engineering standards and that drivers have been adequately educated or trained before they are issued licenses to drive.

As to technical details, is the NCAP equipment programmed to follow the ideal time gaps in seconds between the changing of the red, yellow, green, and other signals (such as flashing reds, left turns, etc.), in relation to the traffic flow at that intersection? The signals’ duration and sequence must consider the changing traffic volume and flow and not be constant 24/7 or uniform for all locations.

The building of a road is not finished after the reinforced concrete is poured and it hardens. The project is not complete for delivery until all features, including lanes and road signs are installed and traffic lights, if needed, are working.

Are all lanes clearly marked, including the limit line? (For drivers [and a few traffic officers!] who don’t know/care, the limit line is that line before the crosswalk. Vehicles stopping at a red light must not protrude beyond the limit line and straddle the pedestrian lane.)

Under education, is there a move to include driving and motor vehicle trouble-shooting as optional or vocational subjects in selected schools? Even for those who don’t intend to drive at all, road and traffic safety and courtesy must be woven into the curriculum.

Some congressmen ask why private contractors or suppliers are imposing and collecting fines from erring motor vehicle owners or drivers. It is actually the government that imposes and collects the fines, not the private contractors who just help.

The House hearings may want to review the table of penalties and fines. Motorists experiencing this unfamiliar no-contact scheme, especially if there was no accident or untoward incident at the scene, may see the fines to be excessive.

In the case of public utility vehicles, who should pay the fine? The camera cannot identify the driver but there is a record of the vehicle owner. If the PU owner must pay the fine, what measures are in place so he does not collect it in turn from his driver?

If the PU driver instead of the operator is eventually made to pay, should there be a moderation of the fines for these drivers in consideration of their economic plight? What is the reasonable graduation in the fines for the first and on to succeeding offenses?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 18, 2022)

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