Text and Photo by Henrylito D. Tacio
Two days after celebrating Independence Day in 2017, residents of Davao City woke up with the sad news of nine people dead on the spot, two more pronounced dead-on-arrival, and eight others injured when a passenger van hit a 6-wheeler forward truck. The accident happened at Kilometer 21 in Budbud, Bunawan district.
The van, coming from Monkayo and going to Davao City, tried to overtake another vehicle. The driver didn’t see the speeding truck on the same lane that resulted in a collision and caused the sudden death of more than half of the 16 passengers.
“The speed limit ordinance of Davao City is aimed specifically at putting an end to deadly vehicular accidents in the city,” said Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte in a statement issued after the accident.
“When it was first implemented four years ago, we saw a remarkable decrease in deaths from vehicular accidents,” the eldest son of President Rodrigo Duterte pointed out. “This year though, we again observed an increase in incidents of vehicular mishaps.”
A day later, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported another road accident that happened along the Maharlika Highway in Atimonan town in Quezon province. Two persons riding a motorcycle tried to avoid a collision with a bus “that overtook another vehicle.”
According to the news report, the driver “lost control of his motorcycle,” and he and his passenger were thrown but a coming “bus hit and ran over them. They died instantly,” wrote Delfin T. Mallari, Jr.
Not random acts of God
Vehicular accidents need not happen, but they do. “They are not random acts of God,” declared Dr. Jeffrey Runge, head of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “They’re predictable, and therefore they’re preventable.”
According to the data published by the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018, road traffic accident deaths in the Philippines reached 10,624, or 1.74% of total deaths that year. The death rate was 11.40 per 100,000 of population, which ranked county No. 118 in the world.
The Department of Health (DOH) doesn’t contest this fact. As a matter of fact, it lists road accidents as one of the leading causes of death among children, overpowering other deadly diseases. In Metro Manila alone, about two children die daily due to road accidents.
Pedestrians and riders of bicycles, motorcycles, and mopeds are the people most likely to be injured in crashes, studies show. They are also the most likely to die from vehicular accidents.
Usual victims: males
Oftentimes, most of the victims are males “because they are more likely to drive while under the influence of alcohol and to speed or engage in other reckless behavior,” studies show.
Twenty-one-year-old was having a drinking spree with his college friends that he had not seen for three years when his wife Marianne, 18, stormed in and said, “What happened to you? We won’t be able to attend the wedding tomorrow if we don’t travel now.”
The couple left, riding on a motorcycle. It was already late in the evening, and Joseph was driving fast. What he didn’t know was that the road was being fixed. It was too late when he found it. Their motorcycle flew, and Marianne, who hit the steel that served as a barrier, died instantly.
Joseph was still breathing. Those who witnessed the accident immediately brought him to a hospital. The doctors tried to save his life, but after two days of being in a coma, Joseph finally succumbed.
Fourth leading cause of death
Based on studies, vehicular accidents are the fourth leading cause of death.
On May 21, 1991, award-winning film director Lino Brocka (known for his thought-provoking movies like Santiago and Insiang) met his sudden death in a car crash in Quezon City. At the time of his death, he was filming Sa Kabila ng Lahat.
On September 6, 1998, at around 12:15 P.M., on a Sunday, Filipino Italian-American recording artist Ric Segreto was riding his motorcycle from his home in Makati. The singer was killed in an accident on the Makati-Buendia Flyover when he ran into or was hit by debris, possibly caused by workers on a construction project.
Another singer, Eddie Peregrina, was a leading matinee idol of the 1970s. He died at the age of 32 after a freak car accident. His Mustang car collided with a trailer truck in the EDSA Shaw underpass in 1977. He died a month and a week later – on April 30, 1977 – at Polymedic Hospital due to internal hemorrhage. His early and tragic death shocked his millions of fans nationwide.
Most hospital records revealed that vehicular accidents contribute about 40% of all types of accidents. “There’s no accurate figure on the number of deaths caused by vehicular accidents in the Philippines,” writes Atty. Romeo Pefianco in a national daily. “We only read the usual death count repeated after a television or radio report.”
In an article published by the website, philkotse.com identified five common causes of road accidents in the Philippines. These are overspeeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, bad overtaking, improper turning, and jaywalking. Let’s take a closer look at each:
Over speeding: “Exceeding the speed limit is one of the common causes of road-related deaths and injuries in the Philippines because there are no designated officers to catch over-speeders,” the website explains. In addition, some drivers are not really aware of the standard speed limit law in the country.
There are drivers who also overspeed because of traffic issues. “With heavy traffic and long hours on the road, drivers become impatient and once they have the opportunity to drive faster to reach their destination on time, they do so,” the website observes.
Driving under the influence of alcohol: “Drinking alcohol with friends, relatives, and co-workers is among the most common pastime and bonding moments of Filipinos,” states the website as the reason why people drink and drive.
“Alcoholic beverages are the so-called ‘downers,’ which means you will have a lower level of alertness and focus,” the website points out. Drunk driving was also cited by an Asian Development Study as one cause of road accidents.
Bad overtaking: “If you’re been driving for years and long-distance, you might have come to a point where you’ve seen road accidents due to bad overtaking or near-death situations because the driver overtaking almost collided with a bus or another car,” the website explains.
“This is a common scenario in the country because of failure to estimate the distance and time when overtaking,” it adds. “Again, some fail to give the right signal to the driver in front of them, as well as those at their back.”
Improper turning: Most Filipino drivers are not so fond of using the turn signal light; some do, but it is already too late.
“The recommendation is to switch the turn signal light on at least 30 yards before the turning point,” the website says. “This way, you will give the car at your back a chance to slow down at a proper distance. Failing to do so will cause collision; worst, the collision of multiple cars.”
Jaywalking: Road accidents happen not just because of motorists but also because of individuals on foot. “Jaywalking is the number one reason people are hit by cars. Instead of using the overpass and proceeding to designated pedestrians, people just choose to cross anywhere,” the website says.
The ADB study also cites the following causes of road accidents: overloading, self-accidents, road defects, hit and run, and using cellular phones.
Despite all the reminders, vehicular accidents still happen.
To curtail road accidents, several laws were passed. In 2013, the then President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act No. 10586 – also known as The Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013 – a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 3365 and House Bill No. 4251.
In the provision “Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol” (DUIA), the Act penalizes operating a motor vehicle while the driver’s blood alcohol concentration level has, after being subjected to an alcohol breath analyzer test, reached the level of intoxication.
In “Driving Under the Influence of Dangerous Drugs and other similar substances,” DUID refers to the act of operating a motor vehicle. At the same time, the driver, after being subjected to a confirmatory test, is found to be positive for the use of any dangerous drugs.
In Davao City, due to the alarming steady increase in traffic accidents on the highways, thoroughfares, streets, and roads, then-Mayor Duterte signed Executive Order No. 39, which set the speed limits for all kinds of motor vehicles within the territorial jurisdiction of the city.
Violators can be fined or arrested if warranted, and their vehicle impounded under the provisions of Republic Act 4136 (the governing traffic law of the Philippines) and the city’s traffic ordinance.
As a result of the implementation of the Speed Limit Law, there was a significant drop in road crashes from January to December in 2014.
On the other hand, the national government is implementing Republic Act 10913 or the Anti-Distracted Driving Act (ADDA) that was passed recently. The law “prohibits motorists from using communication devices and other electronic entertainment and computing gadgets while vehicles are in motion or temporarily stopped at a traffic light or an intersection.”
The ADDA covers both public and private vehicles. It also covers wheeled agricultural machineries, construction equipment, and other forms of conveyances such as bicycles, pedicabs, trolleys, habal-habal, kuligligs, wagons, carriages, and carts that may either be human-powered or pulled by an animal as long as the same is operated or driven in public thoroughfares, highways or streets.
Meanwhile, the WHO said road crashes kill more than 1.2 million people and seriously injure or disable as many as 50 million worldwide every year. And the situation is getting worse.
“If significant steps are not taken, the crash death rate in low- and middle-income countries – which already experience more than 85 percent of road deaths and injuries – will increase by 80 percent by 2020,” the UN health agency warns.
Globally, it is estimated that there are now roughly 100 million families coping with the deaths or disabilities of family members who were injured in a road traffic collision, recently or in the past.
“They are coping with grief for the dead and care for the disabled,” the UN health agency said. “Often, they are also living with reduced incomes, increased expenses and the burden of dealing with police, courts, insurers, medical systems, and other bureaucracies.”