By Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr.
The road widening program of the Maharlika Highway here in Sorsogon, funded by the national government, for various reasons, claimed a number of lives, leaving local government units with gruesome statistics of road deaths and accidents. With the rusty provisions of RA 4136, the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, needing amendments, the lack of road signs courtesy of DPWH, un-disciplined motorist and pedestrians and the illegal use of the road network are worrisome developments.
As early as November 2016, the Province of Sorsogon passed Provincial Ordinance No. 5 prescribing rules and regulations in the use of Maharlika Highway. This was the result of the joint committee hearing of the committees on transportation, communication and utilities and public order and security. The principal authors are Board Member Franco Eric Ravanilla and Dennis Escudero.
It noted the improper use of the Maharlika Highway, causing traffic hazards might result in loss of lives and property and rules that the aim is to provide safer road network are disregarded.
The ordinance tasked the LTO, Highway Patrol Group, the PNP, DENR and DepEd. It calls upon the local government units to enact respective ordinances in line with RA 4136 to suit the needs of their jurisdiction.
Primarily, however, the use of Maharlika Highway by bus companies, private vehicle owners, other motorists, construction companies mostly blinded by the power of their vehicle engines making it their speedway, with their dust, lies a victim’s body. Adding the woes are the passive attitude of elected officials allowing a portion of the road as solar beds and extension of business outlets. Such are accidents waiting to happen.
Within an intersection, parking should be prohibited, same at the crosswalk, within six meters of the intersection of the curb line, a four-meter open clearance for driveway entrance of fire stations, fire hydrants should not be obstructed by parking, and at places where signs prohibiting parking are the restrictions cited by Provincial Ordinance No. 5-2016.
As we see, construction firms disregard of the curb lines in dumping their materials, there are signs of warning but inappropriately designed which, a matter of urgent concern unattended by DPWH, and the local government unit. Their hauling trucks ply the route loaded either with sand, gravel or boulder lord the highway sans its netting or canvas cover to prevent spillage that may cause an accident to a tailing vehicle. Oftentimes, non-observance of the truck ban in the locality by way of “Do Not Delay Government Project” displayed signs makes fun of road safety. They are the new things off the road.
Careful and prudent speed driving, not greater nor less than what is reasonable and proper, having due regard for traffic, the width of the highway, and of any other conditions, then and there existing, and no person shall drive a motor vehicle upon a highway at such a speed as to endanger the life, limb, and property of any person, nor at the speed greater than will permit him to bring the vehicle to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead, are reasons to include speed restriction in the ordinance.
This is worth mentioning since most of the vehicle drivers often times have to beat the limit of time to reach their destinations, leaving out from their minds to be careful and prudent to avoid endangering the life, limbs, and property of others. The author classified the use of the inner lane and the outer lane according to speed and emphasized that overtaking should be done on the inner lane and take immediately the same lane after overtaking. This was not observed by the truck driver when it overtook a trimobile using the outer lane causing the death of two victims sometime ago in Barangay Buhatan. This is not an isolated case.
Another issue raised by the ordinance is the maximum allowable speed of passenger cars and motorcycles, trucks and buses with exemptions, but daredevil as they are, the speed limit is without limit.
Highway accident can be minimized, if not avoided if all concerned take note of the value of life and property. It will also be safer for the motorist to maintain a roadworthy motor vehicle inspected by a qualified inspector during the time of registration. LTO would only inspect the headlight, tail light, horn, early warning device and the minimal outer conditions. They don’t have the understanding of a mechanical inspection of under-chassis, engine and critical vehicle parts for safety measures.
Continuing motorist and pedestrian education are not for LTO alone, a concerted effort is needed.
It is time to overhaul what was left out and inject what is necessary to make functional Provincial Ordinance No. 5-2016 of Sorsogon. Also, the need to amend certain provisions of RA 4136 to meet the signs of the times. A wake-up call to everyone, it is for all, share and be responsible for we value life. In the same vein, calling elected chief executives, legislators to do their share.