By Susan Claire Agbayani
Maybe it is best that people learn about road safety at a young age — perhaps as early as grade school.
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito suggested making it part of the grade school subject Good Manners and Right Conduct last Thursday during a press conference on road safety organized by Vera Files in Malate, Manila. As is, there is a bill working its way through congress which aims to integrate road safety education as early as daycare and preschool.
Considering that the most frequent victims of road crashes, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), are young adults between 20 and 24 years of age, followed by those between 25 and 29, it is probably a good idea for future drivers to learn about road safety long before they get a chance to get behind the wheel of a car.
STATS FROM WHO AND PSA
The Global Status Report on Road Safety states that road traffic injuries are a global health and development problem. In her preface to the report, Dr. Margaret Chan, who was World Health Organization (WHO) Director General until 2017, wrote, “More than 1.2 million people die in the world’s roads every year, and as many as 50 million others are injured.” Interestingly, and sadly, 90% of those deaths happen in low-income and middle-income countries, the Philippines included.
“Globally, almost half of those who die in road traffic crashes are pedestrians, cyclists, and users of motorized two-wheelers,” who are collectively referred to as “vulnerable road users,” says the WHO report.
In nine years, between 2006 and 2015, there was a huge jump in the number of people who died in road crashes in the Philippines — from 6,869 to 10,012 — a 45.76% increase. And the number has been steadily growing through the years.
Mr. Ejercito mentioned the need for motorcycle manufacturers to provide driver education, saying that 70% of vehicles that figure in road crashes are motorcycles.
A few months ago, he filed Senate Bill No. 1822, or the Motorcycle Safety Training Act of 2018, which requires riders to undergo mandatory safety riding training, noting that motorcycle riders have been the primary victims in road crashes in Metro Manila since 2010.
“As part of the corporate social responsibility (of motorcycle manufacturers) — before the unit is turned over to the buyer he should undergo some sort of education. Definitely, education would play a crucial role in reducing accidents. It’s very important,” Cesar Sarmiento, the congressman of the lone district of Catanduanes, told BusinessWorld after a meeting on road safety of the Committee on Transportation — which he chairs — in Congress last month.
In the Philippines, Honda has a 2.4-hectare facility along SLEX called the Honda Safety Driving Center (HSDC) that includes a training circuit “that simulates traffic network and actual road conditions.”
“We incorporated road safety education as part of the basic operations of our dealership, in our business of selling motorcycles. Many of our dealers are involved in our road safety campaigns,” said Jun Lomibao, Division Chief of Honda’s safety driving promotions, during an interview at HSDC.
NOT A ‘SILVER BULLET’
“Driver education is important, but it’s not a silver bullet,” said Dr. John Juliard Go, Program Officer of World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines, after the road safety forum. “By itself, it will not work.”
Mr. Sarmiento agrees, saying, “Many factors would lead to the reduction of road accidents. No. 1 is education, plus discipline, and strict enforcement.” He added that these factors should complement one another as knowledge of the necessary information would be rendered useless if enforcement governing road safety laws is lax.
“Road safety education should be comprehensive in its scope; and has to have elements of interventions with other factors,” said Dr. Go.
“Driver education can only work if you implement (it) together with other interventions that target road users: make them more aware and comply with our road traffic regulations on seat belts, helmet, speeding, speed limiters and drink driving, right?”
WHO-Philippines’ Technical Officer on Road Safety and Communicable Diseases Dr. Ronald Quintana agrees. In an interview at the House of Representatives after the congressional hearing on transportation, he said, “Providing education for motorcycle drivers is important — particularly on road safety — but it doesn’t necessarily lead to behavior change. Knowledge gained should be practiced.”
Among the other crucial factors Dr. Quintana mentioned are:
• Engineering/road infrastructure (“better roads and roadways”) as one of the means of prevention of road crashes;
• strict implementation and enforcement of road safety laws;
• interventions related to speed, which is one of the behavioral risk factors;
• safer vehicles, which should have standards and regulations; and,
• interventions to protect road users: the pedestrians, drivers, and passengers.
Many road safety laws have been passed in the last few years, including the Motorcycle Helmet Law (RA 10054), the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act (RA 10586), the Road Speed Limiter law (RA 10916), and the Extension of Validity of Driver’s License (RA 10930). Also, the Seat belt Law (RA 8750), the Anti-Distracted Driving Law (RA 10913), and Children’s Safety on Motorcycles Act (RA 10666).
Road safety advocates in the Senate are now pushing for Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act of 2017 (SB 1447), the Anti-Overloading Act (SB 1446), as well as the Creation of a National Transportation Safety Board (SB 1375), among others.
And coming back to the children, over at the House of Representatives, Mr. Sarmiento introduced House Bill No. 7915 or the National Road Safety Awareness Act, which promotes “national road safety awareness through road safety education, road safety events and activities and multi-stakeholder consultation and collaboration…”
Section 3 of the bill enjoins the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, the Technical Education and Skill Development Authority — in coordination with the Department of Transportation, the Land Transportation Office and other concerned agencies — to “integrate road safety education in the school curricula at all levels, whether public or private, including the barangay day care, preschool, non-formal, technical, vocational, indigenous learning and out-of-school youth courses and programs.”
This story was produced under the Bloomberg Initiative Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the World Health Organization, Department of Transportation and Vera Files.