Expressways test and train thousands of motorists daily
by Tito F. Hermoso
Why does the government allow lousy drivers to get a license? Why does the government allow rolling coffins on the road? These are the ingredients for accidents to happen and with drivers, motorcycles, tricycles, buses, cars and jeeps multiplying and crowding the nation's roads, road accidents and fatalities are sure to rise. Anyone who has been on the road for the past two decades or so have the same lament.
Over the past three years various safety and economy driver education programs by Shell, Honda Safety Driving School, Isuzu and A-1 Driving School have proven the effectivity of private sector initiative in instances when government is overwhelmed to deliver. But how about drivers who refuse to make time to get a better [driving] education?
There is an alternative. And this is every time you pay toll to drive on some select stretches of 250kms of public roads. It comes with free driver's training and testing. Its definitely an all the time and real time driver ed-test that comes as a bonus on our small network of privately run toll expressways. Being on them is the next best thing to having a full time live-in tutor.
For instance, at the NLEx, TMC's bright yellow Mitsubishi Strada patrols have large dot matrix warning lights to pull over motorists who refuse to leave the overtaking lane. NLEx, SCTEx, Skyway and ACTEx employ CCTV cameras to monitor lane discipline and record violators who get eventually ticketed at any toll gate exit. MATES, the operator of the ACTEx, have patrols that pull over motorists driving below the minimum speed limit. All expressways use LIDAR speed cameras to monitor speed dare devils. Vehicle not roadworthy or overloaded? You can't enter the expressway, so like any driving test, there are minimum standards and criteria to meet.
The toll road expressways do not limit their "testing" and "training" to active intervention. For education of the passive kind, our toll expressways use thermoplastic road markings that rumble when a car strays from the straight and narrow. International standard road signs, orange cone arrays, flashing warnings, breakdown distance clearances and road works lane closures are the daily pop quiz. CCTV cameras and frequent patrols act like exam monitors to prevent cheating. And if an emergency develops, rescue vehicles deploy instantly and ensure that those other motorists not involved can go on their merry way, undisturbed, to continue to take their "test". As in all kinds of training and testing, it pays to pay attention all the time.
Each day 200,000 drivers are "tested and trained" via the NLEx and SCTEx and 250,000 going South through the Skyway, ACTEx, STAR and CAVITEx. Consider it a refresher course in good driving. Good driving is rewarded with a fast, smooth and trouble-free relaxing journey. And with it, the fuel, stress and time savings that compensates for the cost of the toll fees, several multiples over.
At the most 450,000 drivers benefit from the free 24/7 daily driving lessons. With more private sector run expressway kilometers, more drivers should benefit. Unfortunately, the new PPP [public-private-partnership] framework has failed to attract more investors in expanding our toll expressway network.
To make matters worse, the Magistrates have already allowed the BIR to apply VAT to toll fees in a few months time, signaling another rise in toll fees. Whether the VAT constitutes double taxation or not, more's the pity as when the final input-output VAT is computed, the BIR will probably net an amount that will not compensate for lost customers due to the toll fee hike that VAT imposed. This can only mean that less drivers will benefit from the all inclusive driving lessons that obeying toll expressway rules provide.
What green shoots in educating and testing drivers that the Private Sector prodded is in danger of being stunted by one arm of the government that has failed to take into account that the proliferation of unsafe and uneconomical drivers is due to the failure of the other arms of government. A pity indeed as the private sector has proved it can succeed where the government has always under delivered.