Bus lanes and NCAP along EDSA
The Manila Times
OUTRAGE was what first greeted the decision of the Metro Manila Council to raise the penalty for vehicles illegally using the EDSA Busway. Motorists, especially those on two wheels and the rich boys, were angered by the fact that they now have to shell out five times more than before to violate such a simple rule. But there are people so used to violating traffic laws, and over a thousand violators have been apprehended so far. Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Romando Artes told this writer that the reason they increased the penalties were because violators seemed to think the old charges were cheap. “Kaya naman daw nila magbayad (They can afford to pay), so they just willingly ignore the law,” he added. And that is one of the reasons the law against using the EDSA Busway was hard to implement — the penalty was negligible. In the United States, traffic violation fines are so heavy that motorists avoid them like the plague. Simply parking on a spot for vehicles with PWD (persons with disability) drivers will get you a $2,000 fine. That’s equivalent to half of their pay in a month. Or illegal parking will set a car owner back $250 to $500. But here, prior to that EDSA Busway rule, our road penalties are about P500 or less than $10 at today’s exchange rate. Of course, MMDA has their own set of expensive fines but Metro Manila cities have their own rate sheet, which are not only chicken feed but also creates confusion. What we are trying to say here is that traffic rules must be consistent nationwide in order for traffic to flow well everywhere. The second reason is that of impunity. Sure, the guys on motorbike and taxis may be deterred by this new set of penalties. But do we think for one second the rich and powerful guys, their wives and children, their drivers and bodyguards and back up cars will be deterred by these paltry fines? My old friend Bong Nebrija, MMDA Task Force Special Operations chief in charge of EDSA traffic, once told me the son of a general once challenged him after Nebrija apprehended the young man for a simple violation. The guy was so arrogant he actually argued his way out of the situation, showing no respect to an authority that his father belonged to. Of course, we know that Bong Nebrija never backs down from that kind of a fight. Still, how about the other enforcers who are not as courageous or high up in the ranking as Nebrija? What usually happens to them? Of course, we all know that story. And the final reason we have for our messy traffic is the lack of enforcers to man the streets foot-by-foot, minute-by-minute against violators. This is where the no contact apprehension policy or NCAP should have come in but was not allowed to be implemented because of simple politicking. The NCAP is the technology that would make motorists aware of keeping within the rules when driving. We can call NCAP the “traffic big brother” because in this day and age, traffic is so pervasive that the smallest illegally stopped vehicle on the road can cause a massive jam behind it. So, yes, for some reason, I agree with the higher penalties and the NCAP for EDSA. And the higher penalties should not only be for the busway violations but for all traffic violations. Make it so expensively painful that it becomes the main reason why we should follow road rules.