By Artha Kira Paredes, VERA Files
GOVERNMENT and private groups are coming together to promote road safety on May 13, the first death anniversary of journalist Lourdes "Chit" Estella Simbulan, who died in a road accident last year.
A Metro Manila-wide road safety awareness run will start from Antipolo, Quirino Grandstand, Gateway in Cubao and Fairview at 5:30 a.m. on May 13 then converge at the Quezon City Memorial Circle where a program will be held.
The run is organized by the Families of other Road Victims and Survivors (FRVS) led by Simbulan's husband Roland, in coordination with the Department of Transportation and Communication, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Land Transportation Organization, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Automobile Association of the Philippines, Motorcycles clubs, bicycle clubs/cyclist clubs and commuters associations.
The Philippines is one of 100 countries that have committed to support the United Nations' Decade of Action for Road Safety (DARS) which was launched worldwide on May 11, 2011. DARS' goal: To prevent five million road traffic deaths globally by 2020.
Assistant Transportation Secretary Dante Lantin said the country is marking the first anniversary of DARS on May 13 because the actual anniversary fell on a week day (last Friday) and many could participate in the activities, he said.
May 13 coincides with the death anniversary of Estella, VERA Files founding trustee and a University of the Philippines journalism professor, who died when one of two racing buses rammed into her taxi in front of the UP Ayala Land Technohub along Commonwealth Road in Quezon City.
A case of reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property with homicide has been filed against bus drivers Daniel Espinosa and Victor Ancheta at a Quezon City court. A pretrial hearing was held May 9 and a court hearing has been scheduled once a month starting June.
Lantin, who is the National Focal Point of DARS, said the private sector has been helping with the campaign by providing capacity building and public information.
One Antipolo (OneA), which is organizing the road safety awareness run in the East area, has put up Run for Road Safety posters and a billboard near the Boni MRT station along EDSA using the photo of Estella.
Businessman Alvin Carranza of OneA said the private sector is supporting the initiative because government agencies "need to be aware that they need to make our roads safe and save millions of lives per year."
The FRVS is also supporting DARS. Although the group is neither registered nor incorporated, it has already drafted its mission, mission and goals. It intends to launch campaigns "to make road safety a societal concern as well as a right of every citizen."
Simbulan, who will be joining the fun run from Antipolo, said he has added road safety among his advocacies and stressed that commuters and vehicle owners alike "deserve safe roads."
Among the government agencies supporting DARS, the Department of Public Works and Highways has programs to improve road condition, the Department of Education is teaching children to observe traffic rules and regulation in crossing the streets while the Department of Health is putting up trauma care centers and collecting data on traffic accidents, Lantin said.
Meanwhile, drivers applying or renewing their licenses are now required to recite the "I SWEAR" pledge and keep a copy in their vehicles, he said.
The pledge, launched at the Road Safety Forum in February, reads:
At all times, together we will save lives. I will not use my cellphone while driving. I will observe road speed limits. I will not drink and drive. I will maintain my vehicle in good roadworthy condition. I will be a defensive driver. I will buckle up. I will observe traffic rules.
In a recent meeting with United Nations Economic and Social Commission Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Lantin reported that 34 people are killed in road accidents in the Philippines every day while one tourist fatal accident occurs daily.
He said three in four accidents are caused by driver's error, one in five are the result of mechanical defect. Road condition accounts for 9 percent of accidents.
The UN gave 10 reasons why countries need to act on road deaths.
1. Some 1.3 million people are killed on the world's roads each year.
2. Road crashes kill more people than malaria.
3. Fifty million people are injured, and may be disabled as a result.
4. Ninety percent of these casualties occur in developing countries.
5. Annual deaths from road accidents are forecast to rise to 1.9 million by 2020.
6. Road accidents are the No. 1 cause of deaths for young people worldwide.
7. By 2015 road crashes will be the leading health burden for children over the age of five in developing countries.
8. The economic cost of road accidents to developing countries is at least $100 billion a year.
9. Injuries arising from road accidents place immense burdens on hospitals and health systems.
10. Road crashes are preventable.
(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)