Editorial: Engines of growth

CONGRESS has persuaded the transportation department to apply the brakes on a new law that prohibits the use of phones, tablets, and other mobile devices while driving.

Another law that also ran into many complaints, the Children’s Safety on Motorcycles Act of 2015, remains in effect. With classes resuming in less than two weeks, local officials would be wise to figure out how to help constituents, particularly those who use motorcycles to bring their children to school.

For many Filipino families, the purchase of a motorcycle means more than ease of movement. It also connects them and their children to better opportunities. Schools, markets, workplaces—and all the connections and advantages they lead to—become more accessible to those with a motorcycle, no matter how modest, to their name. As of 2013, the 4.25 million registered motorcycles represented about 55 percent of all vehicles in the country. Motorcycle riders compose the largest group among all motorists.

Lawmakers who worked on Republic Act 10666 must have had good intentions when they set additional rules for the use of motorcycles. Of course, children who are brought along on motorcycles should have the right helmets. Of course, a child passenger should be able to secure himself or herself by wrapping arms around the driver’s waist.

But perhaps local governments can also help constituents deal with the law’s unintended consequences, such as by fielding buses or other vehicles as school shuttles, if only until parents can arrange for alternative transportation.

This isn’t the first time that rules drafted with well-meaning intentions created new problems. Two years ago, the Mandaluyong City Government began to enforce a ban on tandem-riding. Under that ordinance, motorcycle riders cannot have passengers who are not their wives or female relatives, or their own children between seven and 10 years old. The only adult males who could ride with them would have to be their relatives.

Yet while the intention was to prevent crimes by tandem-riding wrongdoers, the original ordinance created problems for law enforcers—who, like many Filipino commuters, depend on motorcycles. So Mandaluyong’s officials had to tweak the ordinance to exempt police officers.

The law that’s intended to make motorcycle rides safer for children is a commendable example of trying “to separate vulnerable road users from high-speed traffic.” That’s one of the recommendations the World Health Organization made in 2015. Yet there are other solutions local and national governments can push for, like upgrading existing roads, investing in safer public transportation, and providing incentives for ride-sharing.
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