How safe are we in Daang Matuwid?

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In the aftermath of the road accident that killedveteran journalist and professor Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan, it became clear that much has to be done in terms of ensuring safety on the roads. It also became obvious that despite the prevalence of accidents especially along major thoroughfares, authorities have failed to read the signs right. An effective road safety program remains out of sight.

Professor Simbulan, a journalism professor at the University of the Philippines and co-founder of investigative news site VERA Files,died in a bus-taxi collission on Commonwealth Avenue last May 13. This was just two days after government agencies took part in the worldwide launch of the Decade of Action for Road Safety.

Ironically, the local launch of the global pledge for road safety, which was marked with much fanfare, barely put road safety in the spotlight. Mam Chit’s death did it.

It is infuriariting to think that it had to take the death of a respected journalist-professor for the government to train its sight on road safety and accident prevention. Year-on-year, thousands of accidents occur at Metro Manila’s thoroughfares killing dozens of people. Last year, the Metropolitian Manila Development Authority (MMDA)recorded 21 deaths and 608 injuries in 2,000 accidents along Commonweath Avenue alone. In the entire Quezon City, the agency listed 150 deaths in 26,000 accidents.

At the UP National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS), several research studies on road safety have been produced. Yet it appears that policymakers are not taking a serious look at the findings of the studies. UP President Alfredo Pascual lamented that while the results of the studies have somehow have been common knowledge to us, road safety measures along Commonwealth and in other major roads “remain deficient and unsatisfactory.”

For the Aquino administration, it’s a tragedy that it is apparently clueless on road safety despite its adept use of road talk. Since the beginning, the Aquino administration has treated us to a menu of road-related metaphors and terms: Daang Matuwid, counterflow, wang-wang, sangandaan. Now, the government appears to be scratching its head over vehicular accident that instantly killed Professor Simbulan.

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