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Same rules for all road users

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Tort 041119 - Same rules for all road users

For any motorized or propelled vehicle or conveyance, whether running on electricity or diesel or gasoline, national law or rules governing their use on public roads should be the same. A motorized vehicle is a motorized vehicle — whether electric or not — and can be differentiated only from conveyances that are drawn or powered either by people or by beasts of burden.

Government regulation and licensing should cover all motorized or mechanically propelled vehicles, regardless of the number of wheels, including bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. That is, if they are to be used on public roads, whether national or local. Rules should cover not only cars and trucks and buses, but also unicycles, bicycles, tricycles, scooters, and cargo carriers, etc.

If it is on the road, it should be registered. And its operator/user should be licensed. For anyone using the road is expected to be familiar with and to abide by the rules of the road, and anything used on the road is expected to be roadworthy. If so, then how do we gauge roadworthiness as well as knowledge of rules without any process for registration and licensing for some vehicles?

This is about ensuring order on our roads and the safety and wellbeing of all road users. Then, there is also the matter of pinpointing responsibility and determining accountability, as well as managing liabilities, particularly in the case of accidents. The latter, of course, is likewise in line with ensuring safety and protecting welfare of road users.

In the same vein, there should be stricter laws on jaywalking. In case of accidents, liability of motorists is limited only to those pedestrians on designated walks and properly marked pedestrian crossings. All those who choose to jaywalk do so at their own risk. In this line, laws regarding criminal liabilities arising from accidental death should be reexamined and revised.

Many will resist if not vehemently oppose these ideas, with arguments ranging from these proposals being unnecessary; will add another bureaucratic layer; will be another source of corruption; will be implemented by bureaucrats who do not know what they are doing; is anti-poor; and favors mainly private car owners, etc.

But majority of Filipinos particularly in urban areas commute. They take public transportation, so they will be indifferent or unconcerned with this. The same may be said of pedestrians. Private users or cars and motorcycles and tricycles as well as public transport operators and drivers are already regulated, with their vehicles requiring registration and drivers requiring licensing. So, this is nothing new to them.

The ones likely to complain about such regulations are those who are presently unregulated – those who also use public roads, who also enjoy the privilege of right of way, but who are currently free from any liability to other road users because they are unlicensed and use unregistered vehicles. They don’t even have insurance. But, in case of accident, licensed drivers are still liable to them as third parties. Now, tell me, where is the fairness in that?

When I buy a car, I must first have it registered for a fee with the Land Transportation Office (LTO). And this will eventually require periodic renewal, with the corresponding emission testing, all for a fee. Also, I must buy third-party liability insurance, which also requires renewal. In addition, I am required to purchase an Early Warning Device or EWD. The same applies to motorcycles, except for the EWD requirement.

The process is practically the same for most public transportation, although the latter also require a government franchise and other permits. All for a fee. Tricycles require a local franchise instead.

highway road 041119 - Same rules for all road users

We also have existing regulations on the registration and use of electric vehicles. The registration requirements are similar to non-electric vehicles, and their drivers also require licensing. Presently issued driving licenses do not make the distinction that one is authorized or licensed to drive only electric vehicles.

However, it appears to me that current regulations regarding electric vehicles need updating, as they seem to be observed more in breach. I highly doubt if all users of all types of electric vehicles have had them registered, and have had themselves licensed. I insist that there should be no distinctions and exemptions, and regulations should cover also bicycles and scooters, whether manual or electric, if these are to be used on public roads as personal transportation.

Most everybody else on the road need to have themselves tested and licensed, and their vehicles checked and registered. Fees were paid to the government for the privilege — not a right — to use personal transportation on public road. Why then should owners and riders of bicycles, electric bikes, and electric scooters be treated any different? Shouldn’t they be made to also pay for that privilege?

As a motorist, I share the road with everybody else on it. I am a licensed driver, in a registered vehicle. I am also using an insured vehicle, and carry along an EWD for emergencies. All these have corresponding costs, and I paid those costs to enjoy the privilege of driving myself to different destinations. How come some other road users like users of bicycles, electric bikes, and electric scooters do not have similar requirements and costs? And yet, they also enjoy the privilege of using public roads?

Almost every day, as a motorist, I encounter either an electric scooter, or electric bike or trike, or a bicycle doing a counterflow. I see many of them moving about in the Central Business District. Just the other day, I saw one electric scooter making its way on the pedestrian walk on Dela Rosa St., under the elevated walkway. Obviously, these road users choose to violate road rules and ignore road safety. I also highly doubt if they are licensed, or are using registered “vehicles.”

But they still enjoy the privilege of being on public roads even if they pose a hazard to other motorists or commuters. If you accidentally hit them, you are liable to them. But if they accidentally hit you, or their recklessness result in your involvement in an accident, you would be lucky if you could collect anything from these uninsured vehicle operators. No responsibility, no accountability.

The challenge is for the government, through the LTO, to have all modes of land “transportation” registered, and their users licensed. The LTO database should be able to clearly identify their owners and operators, particularly in cases of accidents, crime, or even theft. We should have clearer regulations on this. We should also consider how to have all types of land transportation insured, at the very least for third-party liability.

And for better enforcement, in addition to specific police personnel, the LTO should also deputize local governments to check on all types of land transportation on public roads, and to impound all those found to be either unregistered with LTO or used by unlicensed users. Ambulant LTO personnel may then be called in to the impound to inspect and register such vehicles off-site. Unlicensed users will also be made to undertake the mandatory seminar and to take the licensing examination, by appointment, before their newly registered vehicles can be released from impound.

This is wishful thinking, I know. But there is always hope. I believe that it is only fair that all types of land transportation should be subject to the same requirements, same rules, and same fees because they all enjoy the same privilege as road users.


Marvin Tort is a former managing editor of BusinessWorld, and a former chairman of the Philippines Press Council

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