• Why buckle up when nobody’s buckling down?


    Last Thursday’s transport caravan (I thought it was a strike but organizers insisted it was not) made me realize that in the routes I take in my daily commute, colorum PUVs are aplenty.

    Aware about the protest and the PUV drivers converging at the Quezon Memorial Circle that day, I left the house an hour earlier than usual, but I arrived at the office almost an hour later than usual. It took me more than 30 minutes waiting in line for my first of two jeepney rides to Manila.

    Very few UV Express vans and jeepneys were plying some routes that day. Although the fare increase had been implemented, the drivers were collecting the old rate because they didn’t have the fare matrix from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). They could not have it because they were operating illegally. They don’t have the permit to ply the route that was opened last year after the new road extension going to the north was completed.

    Colorum refers to public utility vehicles that don’t have the necessary permit to operate in a specific route, or those that don’t have the legitimate LTFRB permit. Estimates of colorum vehicles run up to more than one million, while franchised PUVs is roughly at 400,000.

    For my third ride at SM North Edsa, there were no vans going to Manila. The transport terminal was near-empty. The barkers said the drivers were joining the protest.

    Option two: I planned to take the LRT-1 route to Carriedo but there were no jeepneys. The barker said the jeepney drivers joined the protest, too. The short jeepney ride from SM North to the LRT Roosevelt terminal was apparently unauthorized. The route existed only after the LRT-1 extension from Monumento to Roosevelt started operating about two years ago.

    Because I was already running late for my 9am class, I decided to take one of the few jeepneys passing by. Traffic flow was light to moderate so the trip to Manila via Quezon Avenue-Espana was faster than usual. Yet, I still came late. Waiting for a ride took time.

    I concede that the presence of colorum PUVs makes the life of commuters less difficult. However, it does not level the playing field and it encourages unfair competition. The higher fines should force them to take the legal path. We just hope that being legal should eliminate the “lagay.”

    I fully subscribe to the new regulation imposing stiff fines for first-time colorum offenders: motorcycles, P6,000; jeepneys, P50,000; sedans, P120,000; vans, P200,000; trucks, P200,000; and buses, up to P1 million under DOTC-LTFRB Joint Administrative Order No. 2014-01.

    The JAO also prescribes that colorum vehicles will be impounded for at least three months, their certificate of public convenience (CPC) and their vehicle registrations revoked, and blacklisted for use as public utility vehicles (PUVs) in the future.

    For the second offense, all CPCs and vehicle registrations of the erring operator will be revoked, and vehicles will be blacklisted from being used as PUVs in the future.

    In case the violator is a corporation, the stockholders and directors will be disqualified from operating any kind of public land transportation.

    Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya had explained that the high fine for the first offense of colorum bus operators is meant “to show that we really mean business in putting an end to their inimical activities which put people’s lives at risk.”

    I hope law enforcers will be guided by the rules, and not be tempted out of greed for grease money by mulcting erring drivers and operators. I hope they will not translate higher fines into higher “lagayan.” And I also hope that this will not be yet another “ningas-cogon” undertaking project, just like the seatbelt law implementation.

    I have noticed that while the public, particularly drivers, are aware of the existence of the seat belt law as well as the penalties for violations, many just disregard it because law enforcement authorities have seemingly forgotten all about it.

    Aside from issuing driver’s licenses and license plates, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) is supposed to go after erring private motorists. The LTFRB should be responsible for running after erring public utility vehicle drivers.

    What’s preventing both the LTO and LTFRB from doing their job? We could probably expect the usual answer: lack of personnel, lack of budget. But don’t we see apprehensions almost everywhere, almost every day? Don’t we also see drivers scratching their head and sliding something into their license jacket that the apprehending traffic enforcers not-so-discreetly get and slide into their pockets?

    If my memory serves me right, the seatbelt bill was the first that the Senate in the 11th Congress approved in 1998. It eventually became law—Republic Act No. 8750—in 1999 and took effect in May 2000.

    Buckling up is the best way to prevent serious injury or death in vehicular crashes. Incidents of car crashes where the victims are not wearing safety belts are usually bloody. Drivers and passengers who are not buckled up are often thrown out of their cars or trucks. Sometimes the vehicle rolls over them, and the scene becomes bloodier.

    Studies in the US have shown that drivers and passengers who buckle up are 50 percent more likely to survive serious motor vehicle crashes and avoid injuries.

    The seat belt law requires drivers and front-seat passengers to wear seat belt devices while inside a running or moving public or private vehicles on any road, be it national or local thoroughfares. Drivers of PUVs are supposed to remind front-seat passengers to put on the seat belt otherwise they will have to pay the fine.

    Children six-years-old and below are prohibited from sitting in the front seat, even if they are buckled up.

    Nowadays however, nobody seems to be giving attention to it anymore.

    Just like many other laws, the seat belt law seems to have been forgotten.

    Two weeks ago, I took the front seat of a cab. As I was grabbing the seat belt, the driver told me I didn’t need to wear it. Nobody was looking anyway, he said. The driver was not buckled up. I told him that the law requires that drivers should remind passengers to wear the seatbelt, and not the other way around. Again, he said, nobody was looking anymore.

    I have observed that seatbelts in passenger jeepneys have become nothing but unsightly, misused accessories.

    In public buses, the driver and passengers seated right behind him and those seated by the doors are supposed to be wearing seat belts. I don’t think that is being observed.

    For school and tourist buses, the driver, those seated right behind him and passengers on the last row seats should be buckled up. Is this happening? I don’t think so. Is anybody checking? I seriously doubt it.

    Have authorities forgotten about RA 8750 because the penalties for violations are too low? The law is only 14 years old, and it has been forgotten so soon.

    Traffic enforcers should better buckle down to make sure those drivers and front seat passengers buckle up. Or else, let us just call for the abolition of Congress that makes laws that are easily forgotten. Perhaps, Congress should review the seat belt law and increase the fines. Stiffer penal provisions may call attention to the intentions of the seat belt law, and authorities may yet implement it.

    Comments are welcome at tvalderama@yahoo.com


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    1 Comment

    1. Its laughable isnt it, only in the philippines will they strike because there is a clampdown on illegal vehicles plying for trade. I was discussing this with my bank manager friend & he was really saying stupid things. If these vehicles are illegal they should be taken off the road full stop. There is no excuse. They are taking the lively hoods of honest hard working drivers. I used to be a licenced taxi driver in the uk for 12 years so i fully understand this policy. Unscupulous people would come out in their cars on a weekend when there was an abundance of passengers & steal my lively hood. But our enforcers used to hold special operations & would catch these guys. & so they should.
      But these guys making laws like the seat belt law, why didnt they make it for everyone in a vehicle weather it be in the back seat & the front seat to have to buckle up. Let me tell you of the injuries you will get if you in the front are buckled up & the person behind you isnt there is a very good chance in a crash they will smash their head into the back of your head resulting in either death or very serious head trauma. I think it was incompetance on behalf of the government as usual that they didnt implement proper full seat belt laws. Also other than a child it is the responsibility of the adult himself to put the seat belt on, not the drivers duty to tell the other dults. But he is responsible for any children in the car.Adults take their own responsibility & rightly so but here the government doesnt was personal responsibility to the individual & i have no idea why.