Editorial: Of speed limits and the value of life

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

THERE is still that nagging frustration over the incident that saw a Florida Bus unit fall off a ravine from the highway in Bontoc, Mt. Province last February 7 killing at least 15, including activist comedian Tado Jimenez, two foreigners, and father of two David "Debid" Sicam.

This is not the first, this will not be the last. The frustration emanates from the fact that the most that government has ever done was file charges of reckless imprudence resulting to homicide or multiple homicide, and that is it. As if one life of a driver, himself a victim, will ever compensate for the loss of many others.

Those who have travelled through these highways and byways know how treacherous the roads are. You can't live in the mountains and expect smooth, flat highways. All roads in the mountains will twist and turn and go up and down. That's the natural contour of mountains. Thus, except for that one other unbelievable bus that came flying off the skyway, most accidents of these kinds involve mountain roads. Like the ones in Cebu, that has likewise taken several lives.


Maybe because these mountain roads are normally travelled by the poor and lowly such that no matter how many lives have already been taken, no one is really giving a hoot beyond just complying with the procedures: to file cases of reckless imprudence. Except that this time, there are personalities involved and lowlanders who have a host of friends who are all crying in frustration.

But like any tragedy, the frustration and anger will soon fade, and with it, the concern to do something... until one other tragedy of a similar kind happens.

In Davao City, many are railing against the super slow 30kph maximum speed limit downtown and 60kph maximum speed limit in the outer peripheries. Just as many are getting used to the pace and are just adjusting their lives and schedules around it. The reason for this is valid: the number of road accidents involving uso-uso passenger jeepneys that have been killing many.

The crackdown on uso-uso was not as effective, since all that the drivers and operators did was lie low and then hit the streets again when the watchers are not looking. The accidents repeated themselves, the uso-uso drivers sued, the operators still scot-free, and the victims long dead.

Came the maximum speed limit and everybody slowed down, making those exceeding the speed limits stick out. Going by that adage of in the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king, we can say that in the land of sloths, the turtle is fast. It's not traveling that kills. It's the speed. Therefore, the answer is in the speed.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board can suspend as many franchises as it has issued, the police can file as many charges as they want to, but for as long as there are speeding vehicles up there in roads that are twisting and turning along ravines and crests, the risk of accidents remains.

But of course, like any real solution, the challenge is in the will and persistence to implement. Are all government units willing to persistently keep an eye out for speeding vehicles? We can almost hear the grunts and groans and mumbles of people saying, that is so hard to do. And because you think it is, then it will be. We're okay here with our 30kph maximum speed downtown.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 13, 2014.


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