NOT many readers may have noticed it, but in a public advisory on page A7 of our Easter edition of The Sunday Times yesterday, a notice of reimplementation was published, alerting the driving public that the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will soon be restarting its ‘no physical contact’ apprehension program. Such precautionary traffic measure uses CCTV equipment, rather than traffic enforcement officers, to catch traffic violators along major thoroughfares.
The program was piloted as far back as 2011 along Quezon Blvd. and along Diosdado Macapagal Blvd. in Pasay City, and was generally considered successful; it has been used for years in other countries as well. According to the published notice, the policy will be in force on or about Monday, April 11.
The rationale behind the program is eminently sensible. Removing the human interaction factor from traffic enforcement is safer – traffic enforcers are not exposed to the hazards of working on busy streets, and do not present another obstacle to the smooth flow of traffic. Following the program also removes opportunities for corruption, which the MMDA highlighted as a significant objective of the new policy. Along with that, relying on video evidence also provides for better results, and removes the uncertainty of ‘his word against mine’ disputes between accused traffic violators and traffic enforcers.
Of course, ideas are only as good as their execution, so it remains to be seen whether expanding the program to cover a much larger area will actually be as effective as it promises to be on paper. The program will be no good if it is not efficiently carried out, because the main goal of a CCTV-based enforcement system is not simply to catch erring motorists, but to serve as a deterrent to misbehavior on the road.
Therefore, it can only be useful if it the monitoring and recording equipment is kept in good working order, if there is enough of it to provide meaningful coverage, and if the policy is consistently applied. Human nature is such that those who are tempted to skirt traffic rules probably will, if they believe they only might get caught and punished. If, on the other hand, the motorist believes he may be monitored at any time by the system, he is more likely to be more thoughtful about rules and etiquette on the road. That is only possible if the effectiveness of the system is clearly demonstrated through its proper use.
Even though there are potential pitfalls, it would be unfair to assume the ‘no physical contact’ policy will not work; there is every reason it should, if executed properly, and we will gladly give MMDA the benefit of the doubt, at least for now, that the agency intends to do just that. If successful, the program could do much to improve the state of our overcrowded streets and highways, which is something that will benefit everyone.