Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Killer Skyway

The first time a vehicle flew off the elevated road known as the Skyway along the South Luzon Expressway in Metro Manila, the government and the toll operator should have realised that this road was going to be a looming public hazard. Granting that any road is dangerous where vehicle speeds are on the high side, but put that road 30-40 feet above the ground directly over a busy street and the hazard factor quadruples.

To correct the problem, the speed limits were reduced, that was a good measure to implement. Slower vehicles are less likely to lose control and will have a weaker impact if they hit something. Then they went after the reckless drivers, that was a very good measure as well. Reckless driving was a major factor in all the incidences of falling vehicles. So getting reckless drivers off the road will make the road safer. But accidents happen. A momentary lapse of judgement on a slick road is all that's required for a disaster to occur, and when it does, the final safeguard is lacking to avert the worst possible scenario. The fact that a bus or (any type of vehicle for that matter) can fly off the elevated road onto a busy street below is a major problem and nothing at all has been done to address it.

The building code for elevated roads must be revised to minimise or eliminate the possibility of vehicles falling off the road. And all non-compliant structures must be corrected as soon as possible because once a vehicle goes off an elevated road, serious injury or death is guaranteed for anyone in that vehicle and anyone else who might happen to be in the path of that crashing vehicle. In all cases where the vehicle flew off the Skyway, no passenger has escaped serious harm. In fact all cases resulted in horrible deaths. To protect the public from this ever-present hazard, all elevated roads must be equipped with railing or fences that will effectively deter vehicles from falling off the road, in the event of a accident.

Early morning yesterday (16 Dec 2013), a bus flew off the Skyway in Taguig killing 22 people (including the driver) and injuring 20 others. In this latest incident, that bus which belongs to Don Mariano Transit, Corp, was plying the Novaliches-Pacita route when it happened. This is by far the worst of all the accidents in terms of the number of casualties and injuries. Because of this accident, compounded by several other previous accidents involving this same bus company, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has suspended their franchise for 30 days grounding the transport company's entire fleet of buses. The company will also be held liable for the deaths of the passengers. CCTV captured footage of the bus speeding along the Skyway, when the accident happened.

Don Mariano Bus falls from the Skyway
December 2013-A crushed Don Mariano Bus after it fell from the Skyway near Bicutan killing 22 people 
(image source: www.gmanetwork.com)

On 26 July 2011, a Dimple Star Bus also flew off the Skyway and fell on the service road below killing 3 people including the bus driver and wounding 4 others. The conductor who survived, said that the driver had trouble controlling the bus because of a strong wind. It was raining hard at the time and the road was slippery. There was a report that the bus was "slightly speeding". The Dimple Star's franchise was likewise placed under preventive suspension for 30 days.
Dimple Star Bus falls from Skyway
July 2011-A Dimple Star Bus fell 30 feet from the Skyway near Sucat, killing 4 people.
(image source: www.abs-cbnnews.com by Jorge CariƱo)

The earliest report I could find on vehicles falling off the Skyway happened on 25 January 2007.  An armoured vehicle fell off the Skyway in Makati. The article briefly quoted a report, but the quoted report was no longer available so there is very little detail about the accident, except that 4 people were killed as a result thereof.
Armored vehicle fell off the skyway.
January 2007-An armoured vehicle fell from the Skyway in Makati killing 4 people.
(image source: mikeinmanila.wordpress.com/)
Although there are steep penalties in place to punish the erring parties, it all happens after the fact and the measure does very little to prevent similar accidents from happening. It does does remove the inherent danger to the commuting public. Speed limits are good only if they are followed. Penalties can punish and remove reckless drivers from the road but only after they have cause harm. If a tired, cash strapped driver, trying to maximise his income, steps a little too hard on the gas pedal on a rainy day, another vehicle may just fly off the road again because nothing will prevent it from falling over. And more people will die. Tragic loss of life in accidents like these will keep happening until elevated roadways are built with the necessary safety features.

It is not enough that buses and motorists are made to shoulder the full brunt of this issue. Road builders and operators need to take some of the slack as well, because public safety is at stake. If roads are built without the necessary safety features, the government is just as culpable, because they are allowing road/ toll operators to gamble with people's lives.

  • 16 Dec 2013 - https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/339967/news/metromanila/bus-falls-off-skyway-near-bicutan-over-20-dead
  • 26 Jul 2011 - https://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/metro-manila/07/26/11/bus-falls-skyway-4-hurt
  • 25 Jan 2007 - https://mikeinmanila.wordpress.com/2007/01/25/makati-skyway-lookout-below-bank-armoured-car-falls-off-flyover/

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