Going (way) below the minimum speed limit is unsafe

The title appears funny (at first), but this is becoming a pressing problem.

With the Build, Build, Build program still in full swing through two administrations, there are now more roads to different destinations, which (very) slightly decongests the usual tight spots around the city, and more expressways for the current crop of new and improved vehicles that are faster and more powerful.

Expressway Driving: Is going (too) slow as dangerous as speeding? image

That is well and good for motorists who love driving fast, and there is no shortage of Filipinos on this list, but to be fair, most of us are obedient to speed limits. I rarely see drivers getting pulled over on the expressways for speeding now. A few weekend warriors go crazy with their sports cars on a Saturday or Sunday morning, but it rarely happens these days. Kudos to the guys with speed guns hiding under bridges, patrolmen, and Big Brother for keeping an eye out and placing everybody on a tight leash.

But what about people who drive too slowly?

Having the words 'drive' and 'slowly' in one sentence sound like an oxymoron, but it is becoming an issue. I have witnessed two collisions caused by a motorist sluggishly hogging the passing lane on SLEX. A crash was bound to happen. The lead car, an old truck, was holding up a growing queue of vehicles, and the nth vehicle behind a trailing van did not brake enough to avoid kissing the bumper of the last car in the train. A sedan behind this line stopped in time but got clipped by a delivery truck as it changed lanes. One slow pickup truck caused two avoidable accidents.

Expressway Driving: Is going (too) slow as dangerous as speeding? image

I am sure there are many more accidents of this kind, not just on the expressways but also on EDSA and various other roads in the country. So it is about time to detail and discuss the problems caused by driving too slowly on public roads.

Quite a few countries do not have a minimum speed, but we do. Actually, the state makes a provision for this under Republic Act 4136. Yes, 4136 is outdated, but the wording under Chapter 4, Article 1, Section 35 says: “Any person driving a motor vehicle on a highway shall drive the same at a careful and prudent speed, not greater nor less than is reasonable and proper…”.

If our understanding is correct, it gives the concerned traffic enforcement agencies (both directly employed or deputized by LTO) the authority to prescribe upper and lower limits for speed. On all expressways, the maximum is –say it with me– 100 km/h. In case you do not know, the minimum is 60 km/h. And this applies to all vehicles – from 18-wheelers down to four (or two if you are on a bike with 400cc or more). EDSA and other radial and circumferential roads in Metro Manila have no minimum speed limit set, though most times, it is a variation of a crawl. Of course, disregard expressway minimum speeds if traffic is present, and usually, that is because of an accident, vehicular volume, inclement weather, or some road work.

Expressway Driving: Is going (too) slow as dangerous as speeding? image

How do you know when you are going too slow, and what happens when you dip below the minimum speed required? Some websites say going 20 km/h under the speed minimum is a violation unless motorists encounter problems related to congestion, visibility, or weather that prevent them from maintaining the minimum speed limit.

I am sure by now you are asking why. Is it wrong to drive too slowly? What harm could it possibly do if I am well below the average? While your driving style appears innocuous, you share the road with other vehicles. Your pace affects the flow of traffic and other drivers. RA 4136 can also come in here as it states under Chapter 4, Article 5, Section 54: “No person shall drive his motor vehicle in such a manner as to obstruct or impede the passage of any vehicle…”.

Expressway Driving: Is going (too) slow as dangerous as speeding? image

If you are on the NLEX (North Luzon Expressway) and consistently traveling under 60 km/h, LTO-deputized patrol crew members will cite you for Reckless Driving (because you're also Disregarding Traffic Signs), confiscate your license, and give you a Temporary Operator's Permit. Go to the LTO head office in Quezon City to pay the fine and sort it out.

SLEX will only issue you a ticket if you are on the passing lane and are at or under 60 km/h. Vehicles on the outer lanes (to the right of the passing lane) traveling under 60 km/h will be flagged down. The patrolman will ask why they are running below the minimum speed and provide assistance if needed. Otherwise, the motorist receives a stern warning for driving under the minimum speed limit and gets reminded that it violates the Disregarding Traffic Signs regulation. 

Expressway Driving: Is going (too) slow as dangerous as speeding? image

Here are a few reasons why it is best to stick to the limit - whether the maximum or minimum.

1) The slower you drive, the longer it will take to get anywhere. The more time you spend on the road, the more fuel (or electricity) you use. It is not rocket science. More consumption equals less efficiency.

2) NLEX will cite you for Reckless Driving, which carries a fine of PHP 2,000. The SLEX violation of Disregarding Traffic Signs has a PHP 1,000 fine. Both come with the hassle of spending hours at the LTO head office to get your license back. 

3) Like it or not, drivers behind you may need to go faster. Their rush may be due to a life-and-death situation, bowel movement, or something less urgent - we do not know. Once you get the chance, move to the slower lane. Staying where you are at the same speed may cause them to make an irrational decision, which leads to no good.

4) If you have been getting mean stares and angry looks as vehicles overtake, that is road rage directed at you for driving too slowly. Keep up with the pace of traffic, and you will be fine.

5) Trailer trucks moving faster than you will have to take the passing lane, which will cause further traffic congestion. It creates a domino effect, and in this case, you do not want to be the one who starts it all.

6) A slow vehicle disrupts the normal flow of traffic. Faster cars behind will have to reduce the safe following distance to try and maintain their pace. That is a recipe for disaster.

7) Driving well below the speed minimum forces approaching vehicles to take drastic measures - either brake hard or swerve. Both are dangerous moves that can cause accidents.

Expressway Driving: Is going (too) slow as dangerous as speeding? image

Do not mistake driving slow or driving defensively for driving too slowly. The former is about being cautious on the road, while the other is a mobile chicane that frustrates other motorists. Find out the reason why you are driving well below the speed minimum. It could be your eyes, so have it checked. Lack of experience? Go to driving school and learn proper driving techniques to gain confidence. If your car is the problem, bring it to the dealership (or your favorite mechanic) for maintenance and repair.

Disregarding the speed limit is undeniably a violation and dangerous, but so is going too slow; as I am sure you have heard by now, too much (or too little) of anything - including speed - is bad for you.