Road accidents, according to the Department of Health, have become the fourth leading cause of deaths in the Philippines. Only last Nov. 1, as people rushed home to visit their loved ones’ graves, six people were killed and about 60 others injured when an overloaded bus collided head-on with a Toyota Revo along the North Luzon Expressway in Mabalacat, Pampanga.
One reason for the accidents has been cited by both the Department of Health and the Land Transportation Office: long hours behind the wheel. The LTO said recent studies have shown that the average person can drive only six hours straight before fatigue affects driving. The DOH said lack of sleep and proper nutrition affect a driver’s reflexes and judgment of road conditions.
Most motorists are aware of the problems and try to get some rest and sufficient food during long drives. But such things can be a luxury for certain drivers who must meet certain hours of departure and arrival or meet passenger quotas. What do these drivers do? A number of them take shabu or other drugs to stay awake and ward off fatigue during long drives, according to cases recorded in the past years. As those cases have also shown, drug use has led to worse problems, leading to reckless driving that results in fatal accidents.
The DOH, which conducts a survey on road accidents every five years, reported that such accidents were the ninth leading cause of deaths in the country in 1998. By 2003, road accidents had become the fourth leading killer.
What can be done to address this problem? The DOH surveys cited three likely causes of road accidents: poor road engineering, inadequate education about traffic rules, and lack of road discipline. Road engineering is continually being improved, although the DOH noted that there is still much to be done in promoting pedestrian safety in Metro Manila. Drug tests are now a requirement for obtaining a driver’s license, but this is done only once every few years. Random drug tests may be done on drivers before they leave bus depots. Merely enforcing speed limits especially on roads such as the NLEX could save lives. Traffic rules will be followed and roads made safer if there is better law enforcement.