Rolling COFFINS

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The biggest story in the country in 2010 might be the tourist bus hostage siege which sacked Manila policeman Rolando Mendoza killed eight Hong Kong nationals on August 23. But that is more of a police and foreign affairs matter than a health concern. But it is just one of the many big stories involving buses that claimed lives and caused injuries to people that happened in succession in June to August. Because of the accidents, buses are already being coined as “rolling coffins.”

The string of bus accidents started on June 13 when a bus carrying around 50 passengers, mostly Iranian nationals who were post-graduate students of Gullas College and Cebu Doctors Hospital, fell some 30 meter into a ravine at Trans Central Highway in Balamban, Cebu. The brakes apparently failed and 21 of the passengers were killed. The on July 3, again in Cebu, 15 people were killed and 48 people were injured after the brakes on a speeding bus packed with passengers failed and the vehicle slammed into a concrete barrier in Toledo City.

On August 18, a family of four Americans of Filipino descent who were visting their old hometown were among the 41 people killed after the vehicle’s brakes failed on a mountain road in Naguilian Road in Barangay Banangan, Sablan, Benguet. Four days later, on August 22, a Filipino-German beauty queen who represented the country in the Miss International 2009 and her two companions were killed after the van they were riding was struck by a passenger bus in Bula, Camarines Sur. The bus driver immediately surrendered to the police and told investigators he lost control of the bus after it developed a mechanical problem.

And on August 28, four people were killed and 32 others were hurt when a Manila-bound passenger bus from Tacloban City immediately fell into the Hamaw river 30 feet below the Maharlika Highway in Pagbilao, Quezon. According to survivors, the bus had already lost its brakes when it was descending the zigzag road. This accident was not the last in the remaining months of 2010.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) said that 57 percent of the over 20,000 vehicular accidents that occurred nationwide in 2009 was due to human error, thus, the need for a more aggressive driver and road safety education.

Out of the said percentage of accidents caused by human error, 45.8 percent of the vehicular accidents are due to bad turning, bad driving, and over speeding, 3.7 percent is due to drank driving, 2.4 percent is caused by drivers using cellular phone and 5.3 percent are hit-and-run incidents. The 2009 figures for vehicular accidents is a 25 percent increase compared to the over 16,000 vehicular accidents recorded by various law enforcement agencies in 2008.

Meanwhile, the Metro Manila Development Authority said that in Metro Manila, where more than 6,000 passenger buses ply the roads, 10 bus accidents occurred everyday in 2009 and at least one in 10 incidents resulted in deaths or injuries, while most resulted in damaged vehicles.

In an ANC public affairs program in September, Johnny Angeles, vice-president of the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) and the chairman of its Road Safety Committee, said the condition of the vehicle, the human factor and environment- which includes the condition of the road and the weather – contribute to the risk. “We can’t do so much about the road, he said, “it’s government’s job to make the roads safe.”

Meanwhile, an in-depth report of Marya Salamat published in bulatlat.com in October, said that “The public and government officials, among them President Aquino, always blame drivers each time a deadly bus accident happens. What they don’t know – or chose to ignore – is that bus drivers and conductors are working under severe conditions imposed by greedy operators and ignored government regulators, thus allowing these mishaps to happen in the first place.”

The World Health Organization, on the other hand, stated that loss and suffering associated with road traffic deaths and injuries and preventable. With firm political will and an integrated approach that addresses vehicles, the people who use roads, and the road infrastructure, roads can be made safer.

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