Road accidents: An endless phenomena in Cebu City
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Cebu City, the commercial center of Cebu, has one of the largest networks of roads on the island from the urban areas to the hinterlands.
With this comes the daily struggles of motorists, trucks, loaders, and public transportation sharing the road that can only handle so much at a time.
In the data released by the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) for the first half of the year, they recorded 1,142 accidents in Cebu City from January 1 to May 31, 2021.
Of these accidents, 1,064 are considered solved, 9 are cleared, and 69 remain under investigation as of August 24, 2021.
By September 2021, the accidents would have reached over 2,000 as the average daily accident rate in the city is roughly seven incidents per day.
Among the incidents recorded for the first half of 2021, at least 1,105 were charged with reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property, and another 10 were charged with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple damages to property.
At least 7 were charged with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide while 2 were charged with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicides.
Lastly, 18 incidents were charged with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple physical injuries.
The chances of dying in a vehicular accident in Cebu City would be 0.26 percent as based on PRO-7’s record only three individuals actually died in the road in the first half of the year.
Still, 249 were injured in these accidents, although 881 were unharmed.
Road accidents are a common form of incident in highly urbanized cities that residents face daily.
In fact, archives show that CDN Digital reports at least one vehicular accident per day all over Cebu and yet many more incidents no longer garner much public attention.
Road accidents have become a part of the lifestyle of city residents, said Director Victor Caindec of the Land Transportation Office in Central Visayas (LTO-7).
Caindec said the roads in Cebu City were somewhat a mess.
He said that because it was an old city, the roads were not able to keep up with the economic boom even if the city government tried.
In fact, he said the city did not seem to know what to do with the roads nor had it defined what it really wanted from the road.
“Why it happens it can be argued in so many ways. If you look at mobility it is simple to analyze, you have big trucks alongside motorcycles, alongside bicycles, alongside pedestrians moving along a certain speed,” said Caindec.
According to the data analysis of LTO-7, there has been a significant increase in motorcycle registrations in the past five years as against four-wheeled vehicles.
The reason for which, Caindec said, might have been caused by the 10-year moratorium in the issuance of new franchises for public transport, which was lifted only two years ago for modern buses and jeepneys.
“If you had over a moratorium for over 10 years, it tells you that the population grows, there was a higher demand for transportation. But the moratorium did not allow for capacity to take place. People are buying more cars, and because cars created more traffic, then people bought more motorcycles. And most recently, because of COVID-19, there was a surge for the use of bicycles,” said Caindec.
The phenomenon of road accidents are caused by the underlying fact that mobility in Cebu City is a challenging aspect of urban development, something that the government has yet to crack.
Solutions to prevent road accidents
Caindec presents three major solutions that the city government may want to address.
First, he encouraged providing more mobility for people traveling short distances. This means narrower roads and expansion of the sidewalk.
This way people can choose to walk, ride a bike, or use a scooter when traveling short distances thereby decongesting the roads from private vehicles and motorcycles as well as reducing the demand for public transport.
In order to achieve this, Caindec said the city government had to study the movement of the people in and out of the city and identify the minimum distance a person would travel by foot and by public transport or vehicle.
The goal is to increase the minimum distance that a person would travel by foot or by non-motorized vehicles.
Second, he urges the city government to enhance public transport. The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is already a good step forward, but they must not stop there.
Caindec said there should be harmony in the public transport of Metro Cebu in total because the residents of the metro travel freely from one city to another.
Lastly, he urged the city government to start harmonizing policies that would pave the steps to changing the way roads were being used.
Recently, Councilor Raymond Garcia passed the speed limit ordinance that would set the speed limit for different types of roads.
For cars and motorcycles, the speed limit is set at 80 kilometers per hour (kph) for national primary roads, 70 kph for national secondary roads, 50 kph for national tertiary roads, 40 kph for provincial roads, and 20 kph for barangay roads.
The speed limits for trucks, buses, and larger vehicles are maintained at 50 kph for open roads, 30 kph for through streets, and 20 kph for crowded streets.
The policy was supplemented with the arrival of speed guns for the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) allowing a more efficient way to implement the speed limit.
This would already allow enforcers to accurately determine if a driver has indeed violated the speed limit and then apply the necessary penalty of P2,000 to P5,000 depending on the violation.
For Caindec, this is just one step to formulating a better road policy.
“It starts with the speed limit. Later, we begin to realize that this part of the road must be used for a specific function and we can adapt our policies to that,” he said.
Such is the example of the bike lanes that Cebu City and Mandaue City have already implemented. Both cities have been readjusting policies in order to accommodate the bike lanes.
For the LTO-7 director, this would eventually evolve to every lane of the road being given a designated purpose, a specified speed limit, and even segregation of vehicles.
Policies such as these is the first step to improving the road network of the city.
Cebu City makes a move
Cebu City Councilor James Cuenco, the chairperson of the committee on transportation, said that the city government had employed various solutions to the traffic and transport problem.
The BRT is one, the expansion of roads by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and opening of roads by the city government is another.
Reopening jeepney routes, opening the bike lanes, improving the policies on speed limit, sharing of the road, and intensifying penalties for violators have also been implemented to improve mobility.
Yet Cuenco is aware that there is much to be done in reducing the instances of road accidents in the city.
Mayor Edgardo Labella already approved P250 million for the purchase of a digital system for traffic that includes modernized traffic lights and a more centralized command system.
However, this is not yet under the hands of the CCTO and a contracted party is handling the digital system for now. This poses a difficulty to truly monitor the state of traffic in the city.
As of September 10, 2021, it is not yet clear if the CCTO already takes hold of this new digital system entirely.
While the city continues to struggle with improving the road network, Cuenco can only encourage the drivers to be vigilant on the road and be more careful.
“Atong system karon is very subject to abuse. I agree that there should have been planning diri sa atong road system so we will know asay bawal ang particular vehicles,” said the councilor.
(Our system now is very subject to abuse. I agree that there should have been planning now in our road system so we will know where particular vehicles are prohibited.)
As the 2022 elections draw nearer, Caindec appeals to residents to make the issue of traffic, roads, and mobility an essential standpoint in choosing a leader.
He believes that the only way for this to happen is for the people and the residents to clamor for it and demand it from the government.
“Demand it from your leaders to talk about traffic, to talk about roads. Make it an important political discussion,” he said.
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