"If you can buy a car, then you can buy a child restraint system.”
A “very radical transport modernization program” is in the offing, a Department of Transportation (DOTr) official said Thursday during the celebration of the fourth United Nations Global Road Safety Week.
The program seeks to modify the existing makeup of public transport vehicles, including jeepneys.
“We're saying radical because this really is the way to go. You're improving the public transport vehicles,” Mark Richmund De Leon, DOTr assistant secretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure, said.
De Leon however insisted that this is not a “phase-out” but only an improvement on the specifications of public utility vehicles (PUVs), particularly of jeepneys.
“Yung jeepney na nakikita niyo sa kalsada ngayon (The jeepney that you see on the streets right now), eventually, it will have better specifications for road safety,” he added.
These include placing the jeepney’s door on the side of the vehicle instead of at the back to prevent injuries to alighting commuters.
De Leon said the agency is also advocating for a fare collection system so the driver would not need to look back to get the fees from his passengers.
The department has been updating the Philippine Road Safety Action Plan (PRSAP) to improve the roadworthiness of vehicles, the safety of road users, the quality of the country’s roads and the current transportation system.
In an earlier event, DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said the agency targets to implement the plan in the next five years, starting with the release of the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines this month. (See DOTr moves to rid roads of old, dilapidated vehicles)
Also part of the PRSAP is the passage of laws related to road safety, addressing in particular the six risk factors for road injuries and deaths identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The six risk factors are: speeding, drink driving, distracted driving, and failing to use seat belts, child restraints and motorcycle helmets.
Currently, only a law mandating the safety and protection of children in four-wheeled vehicles is lacking in the Philippines.
As a response, two bills were filed in Congress on Wednesday requiring child restraint systems in privately-owned vehicles. (See Mandatory car seats for kids in privately owned vehicles proposed)
This year’s theme focuses on speeding and what can be done to reduce the number of road traffic deaths and injuries caused by this major risk factor.
According to the WHO, speed contributes to half of all fatal road traffic crashes in low- and middle-income countries like the Philippines.
Moreover, excessive or inappropriate speed contributes to one in three road traffic fatalities worldwide.
“It's not just common sense. There is very good science that demonstrates how dangerous speeding is on roads. Driving too fast is dangerous because of risk of a crash, the risk of a serious physical injury,” Dr. Benjamin Lane of the World Health Organization said during the event.
In July 2016, Republic Act 10916 or the Road Speed Limiter Act of 2016 lapsed into law, requiring the installation of speed limiter in public utility and certain types of vehicles.
Almost 10 months later, De Leon said the DOTr is already in the process of finalizing its implementing rules and regulations.
“So, wala na tayong cases na jeepney or public utility buses na nagkakarera sa kalsada (So, there won’t be cases of jeepney or public utility buses racing with each other on the roads anymore). They will be limited with their speed,” he said.
The event, organized by Safe Kids Worldwide Philippines, was attended by several government and non-government organizations, as well as teachers and students from different schools in Metro Manila.
It started with an advocacy walk around the SM Mall of Asia grounds to raise public awareness on the importance of speed management through the “Save Lives: #SlowDown” campaign.
Mayors of Pasay, Parañaque and Quezon City also expressed their commitment of support through their representatives.
This story is produced under the Bloomberg Initiative Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the World Health Organization, the Department of Transportation and VERA Files.