FRESH VIEWPOINTS: A NEW PERSPECTIVE
By Brian James Lu
In recent times, a spate of violent road rage incidents has dominated headlines, prompting both chambers of Congress to conduct investigations in aid of legislation.
These distressing episodes, often captured by vigilant citizens and swiftly disseminated on social media platforms, have garnered widespread attention. The proliferation of smartphones and video recording devices has empowered citizens to record these incidents, and authorities have been prompt in taking action.
It is disconcerting to note that road rage is no longer confined to major cities; it has also permeated rural areas. The lack of discipline among drivers, stemming from inadequate training or even the absence of proper training, has resulted in chaos on our roads.
Two recent road rage incidents in Quezon City and Valenzuela City garnered particular attention because both involved drivers brandishing firearms. One of the individuals involved was a former policeman, facing various violent cases in his barangay and within the police force, while the other was a businessman.
While firearm ownership is a privilege granted to citizens, responsible gun ownership is an altogether different matter. The process of firearm registration and obtaining a license is meticulous and intended to ensure that only qualified individuals are granted this privilege. While anomalies in this process remain uncertain, it is alarming that numerous road rage incidents involving firearms are occurring nationwide.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) must take a more stringent approach to gun control to ensure that permits to own firearms are only issued to well-qualified individuals.
Research indicates that congested roads contribute significantly to driver frustration and road rage. In 2022, the average daily traffic volume in Metro Manila was estimated at a staggering 3.54 million vehicles.
Residents, compelled by inadequate transportation infrastructure, increasingly resort to purchasing private vehicles. In 2022 alone, approximately 1.27 million private cars were registered, a trend that has been on the rise since 2020. The resulting traffic congestion breeds impatience, stress, and anger among motorists, fueling incidents of road rage.
The post-pandemic period witnessed a surge in vehicle and bicycle purchases as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. In April 2021, the average growth rate of Philippine motor vehicle sales reached an all-time high of 13,315.8% from a record low of -99.5% in April 2020. Consequently, cars, motor vehicles, bicycles, and public utility vehicles (buses, jeepneys, and TNVS) all vie for limited road space, particularly in the National Capital Region (NCR). Notably, the road rage incident in Quezon City involved a car and a cyclist, while the Valenzuela incident pitted a car driver against a taxi driver.
Both of these incidents shared a common problem: the cars used by the assailants were not registered in their names, with the certificate of registration still bearing the name of the previous owner. This predicament undoubtedly inconvenienced the former owners, whose names became entangled in these incidents. To rectify this issue, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) should mandate that all used cars sold be registered under the name of the new owner for immediate traceability.
In the Quezon City road rage incident involving the former policeman, his driver’s license was promptly suspended. The parties involved eventually resolved the matter themselves. However, there are suspicions that the cyclist endured considerable fear, particularly when he was taken to two police stations. Ironically, the responding policemen now face disciplinary action due to their incompetence and may be dismissed from service if found guilty. Their mishandling of the situation underscores the need for enhanced police training in managing road incidents as well as the elimination of bias toward motorists who were once part of their ranks.
In the Philippines, a bewildering array of agencies handle traffic violations. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) issues traffic tickets, but it has authorized barangay traffic enforcers to do the same. Tickets issued by barangay traffic enforcers are processed within local government units (LGUs). The LTO also issues traffic tickets, and certain police officers are deputized for this purpose. Furthermore, the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (IACT) is authorized to issue traffic violations. The No Contact Apprehension Policy (NCAP), which uses CCTV to capture traffic violations, imposes substantial fines on offenders. Given this complex landscape, it is not unfounded to speculate whether traffic violations have become a lucrative source of income for local government units.
Addressing this issue necessitates the establishment of an institution dedicated to resolving traffic violations efficiently and impartially. The United States’ traffic court system serves as a potential model. Traffic violations in the U.S. are not categorized as crimes but as low-level infractions. Introducing a similar traffic court system in our country could streamline the handling of traffic violations. Such a system would also professionalize the issuance of driver’s licenses, with stricter measures in place.
Monetary penalties collected could be directed to the national treasury after congressional appropriation, mitigating concerns about traffic citations being perceived as revenue-generation tools.
However, the issue of road rage presents a distinct challenge, as it is inherently criminal, especially when it results in injuries, property damage, or loss of life. Motorists involved in violent road rage incidents, particularly those with firearms, should face severe consequences, including permanent revocation of their driver’s licenses. While it is fortunate that no deaths resulted from the Quezon City incident, the trauma inflicted on the victims may leave lasting scars. In this context, it is pertinent to reevaluate the penalty for road rage incidents, ensuring that it corresponds appropriately to the severity of the offense. A precedent exists, such as in the case of a businessman who fatally shot a De La Salle student in the 1990s during a traffic altercation; he received a life sentence. In such instances, the suspension of a driver’s license seems inadequate and inconsequential.