Showing posts with label safety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label safety. Show all posts

Sunday, November 19, 2017

On "phone zombies" and road safety

[This is my post for the World Day of Remembrance for all the victims of road crashes]

You see a lot of people these days who are always on their smart phones. Many are walking while doing something with their phones whether making a call, typing away, listening to music or perhaps attending to social media. Many are not aware of what are happening around them and this puts them in a situation where that increases their vulnerability. There are those who cross streets without checking for oncoming traffic. There are those walking along the roadside who are not mindful of the likelihood of being sideswiped by vehicles. As such, there is a need to address this behavioral concern to reduce the occurrence of incidents that could lead to deaths if not injuries.

There is a nice article I read recently about an initiative in the Netherlands where they installed pavement traffic lights:

Scott, G.L. (2017) "Dutch City Installs Pavement Traffic Lights to Help 'Phone Zombies'," Inverse, https://www.inverse.com/article/38472-dutch-city-installs-pavement-traffic-lights-to-help-phone-zombies?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=culture&utm_campaign=photo, (Last accessed 11/19/2017).

The assessment for this initiative is quite limited - one day as mentioned in the article - but is promising especially from the perspective of innovation. We need such innovative thinking in order to address the issues about safety. This is but one example of many aimed at curbing road crashes that lead to injuries and deaths particularly with respect to the most vulnerable among us.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Global Street Design Guide

Here's another quick post and more on the 'work' aspect of my life. I just wanted to share this article with a link to a Global Street Design Guide that was developed by the National Association of City Transport Officials (NACTO) in the United States (US). It's a nice guide that's based on the experiences of many cities in the US including transformations that have made commuting more efficient, enhanced mobility and, most important of all, improved safety. Following is the link to a more direct link to the guide:

NACTO and the Global Designing Cities Initiative Release Global Street Design Guide

This will be a good reference in the Philippines where many cities are in need of transformation to address current and future challenges in transportation.
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Monday, January 11, 2016

Sudden unintended acceleration?

The motoring community in the Philippines is in rather heated discussions regarding the Mitsubishi Montero's alleged defect that causes what has been termed as 'sudden unintended acceleration' or SUA. This term refers to the vehicle suddenly, and without the driver doing anything, rapidly accelerating, forward or backward, and hitting anything in its path. The proofs to these alleged incidences are supposed to have been documented by many including videos that have been uploaded to YouTube and even shared or used by mainstream media. The vehicle's manufacturer itself denies that there is a defect in the model(s) being cited for SUA. They have also released a new model of the vehicle in the market and most people not paranoid about SUA seem not to mind the buzz about the alleged defect. The new model, after all, is supposed to be free of that particular defect considering the manufacturer, despite its denials, should have been aware of the complaints and concerns.

Defect or none, I think what's more dangerous is not the 'sudden unintended acceleration' of vehicles. In fact, I am not aware of any fatalities attributed to this and all the videos I've seen alleging the defect happened in parking lots and driveways. These have caused only minor injuries and, surely, damage to properties. What is more dangerous and should be the concern by all is the intended acceleration leading to speeding (or over-speeding) that is so common in our roads regardless of whether these are expressways or city streets. Such behaviour are almost always intended and therefore the drivers are very much aware of their actions and in control of their vehicles. In control, that is, until they hit something or, worse, someone. Such irresponsible and often reckless behaviour plague our roads and one person's folly can be the doom of others as is usually the case in road crashes involving (over)speeding.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

All roads lead to Antipolo - Alay Lakad routes and traffic schemes

I'm reposting here an article I wrote in another blog that I maintain. I thought it appropriate for the season and the Holy Week.

The Rizal Provincial Government and the Antipolo City Government recently posted traffic rerouting schemes on their Facebook pages. Lalawigan ng Rizal was the first to post schemes that affect traffic in at least 3 major local government jurisdictions – Antipolo, Cainta and Taytay. The schemes affect the two major corridors that basically lead to Antipolo’s National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (or Antipolo Cathedral to many) – the Ortigas Avenue corridor and the Marcos Highway-Sumulong Highway corridor. There are many major and minor routes connecting to these corridors and are clearly seen in the maps.

Within Antipolo, there are also re-routing schemes, which the Antipolo City Government posted along with a “clearer” re-posting of the maps from the Rizal FB page. The Antipolo FB page includes information/maps on the rerouting within the city center. These schemes will affect traffic circulation including public transport routes. Critical would be the permanent and temporary terminals and parking areas set-up around the city that should be able to accommodate the thousands of vehicles that are also expected to be used by people who won’t be walking or cycling.

What the maps basically say is that from 4:00 PM today, Maundy Thursday, to 6:00 AM tomorrow, Good Friday, the stretch from Cainta Junction to the Shrine will be closed to traffic. This is to allow the hundreds of thousands expected to make the trek to Antipolo to have the road for themselves. What the maps don’t say is that motorcycles and tricycles would likely be allowed, too. I can understand that motorcycles could easily squeeze into the throngs of people but then allowing tricycles to operate among the walkers and bikers would be risky given their drivers’ behavior. Add to this that they would be making a killing out of charging opportunistic fares.

Technically, the rerouting schemes don’t appear to be as well thought of as can be expected from the LGUs. Baka ito lang nakayanan ng staff o ng consultants nila, and surrender na agad ang Rizal and Antipolo with regards to the coming up with more options for people to travel to the Antipolo Shrine? Not all people can walk or cycle but are willing to and could take public transport for their pilgrimage. The maps themselves are a bit crude and the Province of Rizal and City of Antipolo could have done much better maps given the resources of these LGUs. There are open source tools now available as well as your basic software like PowerPoint or Photoshop (even Word!) that can be used to render good quality images to guide people making the Alay Lakad. This is a regular event and though it happens once a year then perhaps the LGUs could have better plans especially to transport people who cannot make the walk to Antipolo. The objective after all is to convey the masses to and from the shrine safely and efficiently – something a mass transport system can do whether via Marcos/Sumulong or Ortigas corridors.

One reminder to all doing the Alay Lakad: keep your garbage to yourselves if you cannot find a proper waste bin. Do not dispose of your waste along the route and make a dumpsite out of Ortigas Avenue, Marcos Highway, Sumulong Highway or whatever roads you are taking! Kasalanan din po ang irresponsableng pagtatapon ng basura. While you might be forgiven for these “sins” through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (which many will likely take at the Cathedral), nature will have a way of getting back at you for your environmental travesty.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Typhoon acid test

As I write this short post, there is a typhoon approaching Metro Manila and Rizal. This will be our first typhoon since we moved to our new home in Antipolo. One of our criteria when we chose the location of our home was that it should be flood-free, meaning the area has no experience of flooding. We have experienced and survived some severe flood events including the record floods of Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009 and the freakish Habagat (monsoon) floods of 2012. Last year, as our new home was under construction, we experienced two more floods but with us already looking forward to moving out of our old home. Fortunately for us but unfortunate to so many that we were spared from Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last year.

And so, we will finally have what many would term as an acid test with Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun). This is the first significant typhoon of the 2014 season and the first of several that we expect to affect our area this year given the average number of typhoons passing through the Philippines in a year. While I am not worried about floods anymore, it is the winds that has me concerned. Strong winds are always dangerous as it can bring damage in a number of ways. I have no doubt about the sturdiness of our home but then there might be debris flying from anywhere that could bring about the damage. Hopefully, there would be no significant stuff carried by the winds that we expect to batter our area by early morning tomorrow.

Whatever the case may be, I implore on everyone living in the areas along the path of the typhoon to be ready, be prepared for what may or may not happen. You cannot say you're prepared until the rains pour in and the winds start howling. You can only confirm your preparedness once the typhoon passes and you make your assessment of what had actually happened. I think this is one case where it is always safe to expect the worst rather than be complacent.

Keep safe!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Routine

Today was routine for me in many ways. For one, I had my teeth cleaned this morning. I learned this was quite overdue as I had the last cleaning done in October 2010 when I also had a tooth extracted. So it's been about 8 months since the last time I visited my dentist. I always thought I had my last cleaning in January but it now clear to me that that was actually my check-up with my cardiologist, an appointment that I would also have to make soon this month.

While having the procedure done, I thought about the small incident along SLEX yesterday when a responsible motorist motioned to us about our deflated right rear tire. We had just entered the expressway from the T3 link between SLEX and STAR when a motorist gestured to us just about the time we were accelerating. We had to pull over at a nearby stop and change our tire. During the change, I was reminded about the tires on our Mazda 3. It's been almost 4 years now since we got the car and we still haven't changed any of the tires. The standard procedure was to first replace the two front tires. These were the tires used for steering the car so it was important to have two reliable tires for one to be able to effectively control the car. So I prioritized replacing these two tires and will be purchasing two more tires in a few weeks' time so I would have 4 reliable tires during the wet season. When I get the new tires, I will be replacing the old rear ones with the 2 I bought today. I got my tires from the tire store of our next door neighbor. He recommended I get the Yokohama tires over the Bridgestones I planned to get. From the tread design, I decided to get the Yokohamas as they would give me the best performance for wet and even flooded roads. It is important that the tread design would allow for efficient pumping out of water much like a turbine does in order for the tires not to slip or hydroplane along rain-drenched pavements. Again, this was important from the perspective of road safety, a prime consideration for travel especially as I am a road safety advocate.

After purchasing my tires, I proceeded to another suki, my barber, for my regular haircut. The timing was perfect as it was a month after my last cut and I just had to have this one before the coming week when I would be having some important meetings followed by a trip to Singapore to be with the Clairvoyant. I won't have another opportunity for this in the coming weeks as I would also be flying to Korea for an international conference this June. As such, I also mentioned this to my barber so that he could cut my hair a little shorter than usual to allow for the possibility that I would be late for my next appointment.

All in all, it was a very efficient morning this Saturday as I was able to accomplish three important tasks for the day. I was actually planning to do these things for not a few days now as classes will be opening in a week's time. I have a few trips coming up and I figured I won't have time to do all these once the first semester begins. Fortunately, I had my dentist's contact numbers so I was able to arrange for an appointment while still away at our office's strategic planning workshop in a Batangas beach resort. Fortunate also that our neighbor's tire shop was along the way from the dental clinic to the barber shop. This allowed for me to do these routine tasks in succession. It also helped that my timing was good enough such that I didn't have to wait long for my turn at each task. For a schedule freak like me, I guess I enjoy doing this stuff and doing it efficiently every time. It is part of what I am and what I do and I look to continue doing so in the coming years.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tragedy and mockery

Friday the 13th turned out to be tragic to a faculty member of the College of Mass Communications of the University of the Philippines Diliman. Prof. Lourdes Estella-Simbulan was killed when a bus hit the taxi she was riding along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City at around 6:00 PM yesterday. By the looks of the crumpled taxi cab shown in photos and videos taken by the media, it would have been a miracle if she survived such a crash.

Adding insult to injury were reports that the bus driver fled after the incident. The name of the bus company is not familiar to me despite our Center currently immersed in a project developing a planning support system for public transportation that included a database component that required us collecting data on companies and operators of public transport in Metro Manila. I suspect that the bus is one of those fly-by-night units taking advantage of the night in operating illegally or maybe one that is part of the kabit system that would be difficult to take to task by the HPG or the LTFRB. It is indeed a mockery of traffic rules and regulations that drivers can get away with murder when they are involved in crashes such as this. It is even more frustrating that the most common reason mentioned by drivers when asked why they drive recklessly is that they are just “naghahanap buhay” or earning a living. Such is unacceptable and those charged to bring order to traffic should be decisive and assertive on acting to prevent such crashes from happening again.

To me there is some irony in what had transpired considering that a couple of days ago, the Philippine joined other countries around the world in launching a program geared towards the reduction of road crashes and victims in the next ten years. Forget about the decade – there is a need to reduce crashes and victims NOW. This is because people are getting killed (or dare I say murdered) now, and there are terrible costs even as I write this post.

The College of Mass Communications is a partner in our advocacy for road traffic safety. In fact, that college produced a video for driver education that was supported by resources extended by the private sector led by the Automobile Association Philippines and Toyota Motor Philippines. I am sure that their faculty are now wondering if their efforts have been to naught considering the proliferation of drivers disregarding traffic rules and regulations, throwing caution to the air when they drive their vehicles.

On my part as head of a Center providing training to public utility vehicle drivers, I feel responsible and frustrated at the same time as I question myself if indeed our efforts are even having the slightest influence to improve PUV drivers’ behaviors. In fact, I have been admonishing participants in our training courses about how they sit in and pretend to learn, and then go out and drive like hell. I just hope that the driver involved in the crash that killed Prof. Simbulan is not among those whom we trained at the Center. It would be a shame and one that makes a mockery out of our efforts in promoting road safety. It is our failure as educators that our students and trainees do not practice what they are taught in terms of road safety. We just take it with a grain of salt, so to speak, that responsibility for such PUV drivers’ behavior can also be linked to a flawed licensing system as well as shortcomings in the regulations of public transport services. Indeed, we have our work cut out for us and we can only hope that our persistent efforts would eventually prevail and lead to a significant improvement to safety along our roads.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gearing-up for a Decade of Action for Road Safety: 2011-2020

Today we are holding a Road Safety Conference with the theme "Gearing-up for a Decade of Action for Road Safety: 2011-2020." The theme is consistent with a worldwide campaign led by the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) and its partners that aims to curb the sharp increase in the incidence of road crashes. The program was actually launched last year at the Road Safety Forum held in October in Singapore and formalized with the first Transport Ministers' conference on road safety held in Moscow the following month of November.

The Road Safety Conference in the Philippines is organized by the Automobile Association Philippines and the National Center for Transportation Studies of UP, and is mainly sponsored by Toyota Motor Philippines as a major part of the latter's advocacy for road safety. Partners include SafeKids Philippines, Pilipinas Shell and 3M Philippines. This year, we are happy to have on board the fledgling GRSP Philippines (PGRSP) that is comprised of major companies dedicated in promoting road safety in the country.

The program includes 3 panel discussions with the first one tackling road safety legislation including the status of the Road Safety Bill filed in the last congress. The second panel discussion will feature the International Road Assessment Program (i-RAP) that will be implemented in the Philippines through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The assessment will involve an automated audit of more than 4,000 kilometers of roads throughout the country. These include roads classified under the Asian Highway (AH) network as well as the tollways of Luzon island. The third panel discussion will be on eco-safe driving. which is a practice that aims to promote both safety and energy efficiency by encouraging more relaxed driving while putting emphasis on regulating the driver's use of the gas pedal. The latter, in effect, allows the driver to manage the engine revolution so that upon acceleration and during cruising, the engine will only reach around 2,000 r/min maximum.

These are but among the many topics that are part of the bigger picture that is road safety. They are surely among the most interesting ones that are oriented toward actions necessary if we are to succeed in cutting down the steady rise in road crashes and save lives. The topics are also a welcome departure from past conferences where many presentations showed statistics and sought to establish context for road safety initiatives. That context is already well established and if one is not aware or has a clear understanding of the state of road safety, then perhaps that person is disconnected with what is happening around him.

This year's Road Safety Conference will be held at the GT Toyota Asian Center Auditorium at the University of the Philippines Diliman. It is a whole day event that starts at 9:00 AM and concludes at 5:00 PM.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Car? No Problem!

It's been months now since I've had a car. Lost old reliable to Ondoy last year and decided to commute part-time (I still drive when I'm with the wife.) to work. Sometimes, I am able to get a ride from officemates to our subdivision's gate but that doesn't happen often considering my work hours.

One night, I decided to walk home from SM Marikina partly out of necessity and partly out of choice. Of course, it can be argued that I made the choice out of necessity or that it was a necessary choice given the circumstances but these are just semantics. The choice to walk and the choice to commute is something that was essential to re-establish a routine I came to know and appreciate when I was still a student both here and in Japan - but mostly in Japan where I lived for some time.

I used to walk a lot during my stays in Japan. It's always a delight to take long walks as long as the environment is conducive. I started walking when I stayed in the University dormitory that was a kilometer away from my laboratory. I also walked when I got off the train station to get to the church. This was no easy task considering that Sacred Heart in Yamate was located atop a hill. I could tell then that I was healthy as I didn't have to make stops as I negotiated the steps to the cathedral.

When I transferred to an apartment (or mansion as the Japanese called it), I walked more from the nearest train station to my laboratory. Again, since the university was essentially on top of a mountain, the walk to school was a workout of sorts. I usually covered the distance without any stops but aided apparently by a piece or two of candy that I consumed while trekking. At times, the candies would be replaced by cold drinks during the summer and hot chocolate during the winter. I remember the hot can turning cold even before I reached the comfortable warmth of my laboratory. Of course, the walks back to my homes away from home was always the easier, mainly downhill and usually with the company of friends who were similarly heading home and using the same train station.

I enjoyed my walks in Japan mainly because the environment was conducive to walking (and commuting). The design of the steps, the pedestrian crossing facilities and the sidewalks, not to mention the driver discipline and courtesy in that country allowed for safe walks. Proof of this, I believe, is seeing a lot of children and elderly people walking (and commuting).

In contrast, it was both smoggy and noisy along Marcos Highway. I always had to watch out for vehicles that might sideswipe me as I walked near the carriageway when I ran out of sidewalk or foot path. I was lucky that it didn't rain that night. I can only imagine walking in the rain and most parts of the foot paths transformed into mud. If so, I could also imagine that people would have to walk on the carriageway, risking life and limb to speeding jeepneys and reckless trucks. And in Philippine streets, I know for a fact that private cars aren't that good either. You just assume that they won't be joyriding and looking for people to splash water from the puddles forming on the road.

People who are supposed to find solutions to our traffic problems should try walking and commuting to see how bad traffic and our transport systems are. People who walk would always be able to notice what facilities are needed to enhance the experience and to ensure that walking would be a safe, enjoyable and healthy activity. Road safety audits, after all, are not performed while riding a vehicle but while traversing the length of the road and making detailed observations of its features. Such details will allow the auditor(s) to recommend specific measures based on well-grounded assessment. It is a lesson I know from first-hand experience both as a pedestrian and a road auditor. Perhaps it is a lesson a lot of people would be better of learning and applying. It is a lesson that will probably make our lives better and our cities a nicer place to live in.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Safety First

Road traffic accidents are already regarded in the same breath as killer diseases. The World Health Organization ranks it among the top ten (9th as of 2004) causes of death together with strokes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and influenza. The WHO’s Global Status Report predicts that road traffic injuries will rise to become the 5th leading cause of deaths worldwide by 2030 while already being the top cause of death for 15 to 29 year olds. However, like many diseases, traffic accidents can be prevented or if “diagnosed,” can be “treated.” Moreover, we already have a wealth of resources including tools to enable us to address the problem. A major roadblock seems to be that we have not yet been able to bring all these resources together as government agencies and the private sector entities continue to struggle in cooperating to slow down the rapid increase in the number of traffic accidents.

There are no quick solutions or cures to this disease. We can, however, treat symptoms to alleviate its impacts – among which are economic losses that are estimated to be in excess of US$ 2 billion a year for the entire country. Diagnosis of the symptoms is the collective responsibility of the DPWH, local government units, and the Highway Patrol Group with the enabling of the DOTC through the LTO. Road safety audits should be undertaken for major roads and this know-how needs to be transferred to local governments for them to make similar assessments for local roads. It is necessary for the HPG to intensify their campaign in monitoring roads as well as apprehending errant motorists even for minor offenses. But the latter should not do this “to instill fear in the heart of motorists and pedestrians” as some officials have often declared but rather to firmly establish a culture of responsible motoring and discipline for road users through informed, fair and consistent enforcement.

In Metro Manila, there are a significant number of accidents occurring everyday but these are not all reported and recorded. Such are relegated to the profusion of anecdotal information going around about how frequent and how serious accidents have become in the metropolis. However, with the installation of video cameras at critical locations around the metro provides an opportunity not just for monitoring and recording but for studying the behavior of drivers, riders and pedestrians. Footage from the cameras, if clear enough, may also be used to go after traffic violators.

Local government units including the MMDA would do well in refraining from overdoing efforts that employ unconventional or unorthodox methods for traffic engineering and management. While “out of the box” solutions have been successful to a certain extent, caution must be exercised when applying these schemes elsewhere. The prevailing practice is to over-generalize the application of traffic schemes resulting in what are continuing experimentations that bring about situations that lead to accidents as well as traffic congestion.

I’ve always taught my students that it is important to go back to the basics when dealing with the safety aspect of roads. In highway design we have to keep in mind that there are many elements that come into play including those concerning the vehicles, the drivers, and the environment. Key to the design is to have an understanding of the interactions that take place among the elements for one to be able to come up with a suitable design. Such are the basis for design speeds and curvatures as well as determining the appropriate traffic control or management schemes for the road. One has to ensure the natural movement of vehicles as well as enable conditions where motorists are able to assess the situation on the road with minimal complications that may bring about drive error. Failure to account for the design elements or to understand the interactions among the elements will lead to higher risk of accidents. Thus, a person can have all the skills and experience of a good driver and still be involved in an accident due to a poorly designed (or located) island or barrier. Also, a person could be the best defensive driver and yet be hit by a drunken driver or a motorcycle weaving in and out of traffic.

Highways need not be declared as traffic discipline zones if efforts are firm, consistent and sustained for all roads. It is understandable though if authorities would want to focus on particular corridors or areas in order to gain quick wins and confidence in the campaign for safe roads. However, such campaign must be fought simultaneously along several fronts. It is here that the DOTC through the LTO and the LTFRB should play a lead and active role especially since they have the mandate in as far as licensing and franchising are concerned. In addressing the accidents involving public transportation, for example, it is recommended that stricter policies be formulated and implemented with respect to licensing and employing drivers, and that operators be made accountable for accidents. There should also be initiatives towards emphasizing transport as a service rather than a business and a source of livelihood or employment.

Road traffic accidents have become an occurrence that is too common. The newspapers relate stories of men, women and children being victims of accidents. Television and radio news programs report incidents round the clock; often putting the spotlight on those involving public transport and particularly ones that have resulted in fatalities. All these scream the obvious and that is that our roads are unsafe. We are all vulnerable whether we are behind the wheel, a passenger of a public utility vehicle, or maybe a pedestrian just standing at roadside.

For now, it is important to sustain the sense of urgency generated by the recent spate of accidents and take advantage of this increased awareness and clamor for safe roads. The opportunity for genuine reforms that would lead to safer roads is here and it is imperative that we act decisively. Needless to say, this will require strong commitment and cooperation among various stakeholders to ensure success in reducing the rate of traffic accidents and making our roads safe for the present and future generations.