In road accidents, the current status quo seems to be against the motorist in the car. If you get hit by an erring motorcyclist or hit a jaywalking pedestrian, chances are you will be arrested and have cases filed against you. For as long as there is an injury (or death), there will be charges regardless if you are not at fault.
Now, the House of Representatives is reviewing bills to make it fairer to motorists involved in a vehicle to motorcycle or pedestrian accidents. Today, September 1, 2020, the congress discussed House Bill 899 and House Bill 1987. HB 899 is entitled “An Act Establishing Fair Investigation and Accountability for Road Crashes and Other Purposes”, which was filed by Rep. Mario Vittorio Mariño. HB 1987 is called “An Act to Promote Responsible Driving and Establish Fair Accountability for Road Safety Incidents and Violations of Traffic Laws and Regulations, and For Other Purposes” filed by Rep. Frederick Siao.
Rep. Mariño brought up the story of Teddy Goitis, detained after an underaged and intoxicated motorcyclist slammed into his truck. Goitis was charged with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide following the death of the rider. Goitis was later released and absolved of any wrongdoing. Mariño said that there is a problem with current laws, as well as the application of the law.
Mariño pointed out the need for fairer investigations to ensure that motorists or pedestrians at fault will be held accountable and not the innocent drivers. Should HB 899 be put into action, the driver/operator of the larger vehicle involved will not be at fault. In section 8 of HB 899, the driver will only be held accountable if:
-He/she is under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs
-Has no/expired driver's license
-Fails to present OR/CR
-Traffic laws were broken during the time of the accident (ex. crossing double yellow, beating red light)
-Driver flees the scene of the accident
-There is no franchise to present at the scene (for PUVs)
-The pedestrian was not jaywalking
-The cyclist/motorcyclist hit was wearing protective and necessary equipment
-The other motorist had the right of way
However, Mariño points out that there will also be other circumstances wherein the driver will not be held initially culpable following an investigation.
H.B. 1987 meanwhile adds more circumstances wherein the driver will not be initially held accountable or not at fault at all. For example, the driver of the larger vehicle will not be culpable if the other vehicle was not visible (no lights, reflectors, etc.). HB 1987 also took into account motorists who suffered a medical emergency (heart attack, stroke, diabetic shock, etc.) at the time of the accident. They will not initially be held accountable for instances such as the ones mentioned above.
In both cases, an investigation must be done to determine initial culpability. Statements must be done in writing or orally with witnesses present. Dashcam and CCTV footage can also be admissible as evidence to determine who was at fault.
Amendments like these have been long overdue, but changes such as these are welcome. Rather than just arresting the driver of the bigger vehicle, letting an investigation take its course before arrests are made tips the balance equally for both parties. That way, it's fairer for everyone on the road and for others to be that little bit more careful when they're out on the streets.