Economy · August 6, 2022

Why we need a safety data sheet for transport

ONE of the recent presidential vetoes involved a bill that would create the Philippine Transportation Safety Board (PTSB). The proposed agency was to have the power to conduct independent investigations into transport accidents and accidents, whether land, air or sea, and make recommendations for the prevention of such accidents. I hope that the veto can be overturned by Congress or that the bill can be filed again.

The explanation for the veto was that the responsibility for the investigation had already been deposited with various agencies of the Department of Transportation (DoTr) such as the Bureau of Land Transportation, the Land Transportation Regulatory and Franchise Council, the Philippine Coast Guard, the for the maritime industry and the air accident Investigative and Investigative Commission. There are also law enforcement officers responsible for investigations such as the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation. The creation of the PTSB was therefore seen as duplicated and expensive. I’m starting to disagree. Below, I discuss why a PTSB would benefit the land transport sector; the same reasons apply to air and sea transport.

Among our many health problems, road accidents and deaths are close to the highest in terms of costs for Philippine society. Every day, on average, 34 people in the Philippines die in road accidents; the annual death toll has exceeded 12,000 in some years. The largest share of deaths includes people between the ages of 20 and 29: Filipinos in their prime, many of whom are young parents. Road accidents are also the leading cause of death among children. With the increase in motorization, more Filipinos are at risk.

An independent safety committee from transportation agencies is needed because institutions like the DoTr or the Department of Public Works are unlikely to find fault with their own actions or omissions, or even those of partner government agencies. If the council is able to find ways to make our roads safer, especially for those on foot, by bicycle or by public transport (resulting in fewer injuries and deaths from road accidents), there will be huge savings. on health care costs, many times more than the proposed council budget.

Government agencies must welcome impartial and evidence-based feedback on road safety. Otherwise, we will continue to hear the usual explanations from transport and traffic officials about road accidents: poor discipline, irresponsible behavior, inadequate driver training and human error. These are true to some extent, but we may ignore other probable causes such as faulty road design, car-oriented traffic management, lack of adequate walking and cycling infrastructure, and unsafe vehicles.

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A transport safety council would help our agencies apply a “safe systems” approach to transport safety, a strategy supported by the World Health Organization and successfully applied in many countries. It is based on the premise that human errors are inevitable and should be anticipated. The goal therefore is to design transport systems and infrastructures in such a way that they are “human-proof”. Human error, when it occurs, should not result in death or serious injury.

The council would also campaign for measures to protect vulnerable road users. Some examples of “safe systems” requirements are lowering urban speed limits and prioritizing roads for pedestrians. The overall best practice is to have a maximum city road speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour (km / h). At higher speeds, the risk of a pedestrian being killed or seriously injured if hit by a car is much greater. If a pedestrian is hit by a car traveling at 80 km / h, the probability of being killed is 60 percent; at 30 km / h, the risk of death drops to 10 percent. With lower speed limits, thousands of lives would be saved.

Roads need to be redesigned to prioritize and protect people who are not in motor vehicles (pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users): they make up the vast majority and are also the most vulnerable. Many traffic accidents are likely to occur where engineering negligence or design error is the leading cause of death or injury. In many parts of our cities, sidewalks are narrow or non-existent, forcing pedestrians to walk on the same street space as cars. When a pedestrian walking on the roadway is hit by a motor vehicle, it is easy to blame the driver or pedestrian. However, the root cause of the accident could be faulty road design which left the pedestrian with no choice but to walk in the same road space occupied by motor vehicles. When the routes are inaccessible or dangerous due to non-compliance or application of regulations or laws, negligence or non-compliance with duty must be reported. A transport safety data sheet would help highlight situations where travelers are at risk and ways to remedy such cases.

To reduce the damage, injuries and deaths caused by transport accidents, the Philippines needs an agency that goes beyond common “disciplinary” explanations, will analyze the reasons behind transport accidents, conduct comprehensive studies on dangerous situations and will offer effective prescriptions. Relying on existing agencies to make our transportation systems safer has not produced the results we need. It’s time to try something different.

Robert Y. Siy is a development economist, urban and regional planner and public transport advocate. He can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter at @RobertRsiy.