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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sanchez: Lackadaisical enforcement of road safety laws

BACOLOD is no longer a sleepy city we used to know. Night life and happy hours stretch up to Cinderella time, sometimes even past 12 midnight. Where there are happy hours, we can expect booze all over the place. We can expect drunken driving as well.

Bacolod has a poor enforcement of road safety laws. How many drivers are apprehended for not wearing seat belts or crash helmets? President Duterte promised strict enforcement of laws. I don’t see that happening on existing road safety policies.

Republic Act 8750 or the Seat Belt Law aims to minimize the number of injuries and deaths in road accidents. For drivers failing to use seat belts, they can get fined P250 for a first-time violation, P500 for the second violation and P1,000 for succeeding violations plus a week-long suspension of the driver’s license.

The fines are not fine, so far as enforcement goes. Seat belts in Bacolod are largely bad jokes. The seat belts in jeepneys offer no restraint for drivers and front row passengers.

Republic Act 10666 (Motorcycle Safety Act) bans young children aboard motorbikes, unless they can plant their feet on the foot peg, wrap their arms around the driver’s waist and wear protective helmets.

From 2010 to 2015, around 22,700 children aged 19 and below, or at least 12 children per day, have either been killed or injured in road crashes, based on the Department of Health’s injury reporting system.

How about Republic Act 10586 (Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013)? The Act states that within four months from its effectivity in 2013, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Philippine National Police shall acquire “sufficient breath analyzers” for the use of law enforcers and deputized local traffic enforcers nationwide. The LTO is the lead agency for enforcing RA 10586.

However, the LTO acquired only 150 breathalyzers early last year. Since then, the number of Fit 333 model has remained the same. To have an airtight case, the breathalyzer must be accurate that’s calibrated every six months or every 2,000 tests.

That’s probably why most cases filed in court on traffic accidents are not violations of RA 10586 but lesser offenses of reckless imprudence leading to homicide, serious physical injury, or damage to property. It would be hard for prosecutors to score a conviction.

When can the law protect passengers, pedestrians – and yes, the drivers – from harm? Paper victories in legislation does not translate to real victories in road safety in the streets.

*****

(bsanc@yahoo.com)

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