Press Release
November 5, 2019

Sponsorship Speech: National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims

Five days ago, 40 Cagayano farmers clambered aboard a truck at the break of dawn to go to Tuguegarao to claim the corn seeds the DA was giving them for free.

By nightfall, 19 of them lay dead after their rented ride plunged into a ravine in Conner town, Apayao, pinned under the sacks of seeds they will never be able to sow.

Their tragedy is no longer an isolated case in a country where road crashes have become a raging national epidemic.

Unlike polio, against which there is a vaccine, there is no inoculation against vehicular accidents.

The body count is on such a steep rise that a land transport official had recently claimed that motorcycle crashes have broken into the nation's Top 10 list of killers by claiming the number 9 spot.

Although vehicular accident deaths have not been officially tallied by government statisticians, there is no reason to doubt that motor vehicle accidents have become a major league grim reaper.

While stats have yet to bear this out, we already see the spectacle of banged up cars and mangled bodies on our streets fairly regularly.

In Metro Manila alone - where the biggest parking lot masquerades as a road called EDSA and the rest of the roads host demolition derbies - there was 1 recorded vehicular accident almost every 5 minutes in 2018. Or 321 a day. Or 116,906 the entire year.

These resulted in 17,891 injuries in 2018, 383 of which were fatal.

And speaking of EDSA, it accounted for almost 13,000 vehicular accidents, an ignominy which supports the suggestion that is should be renamed Epifanio Todos de los Santos Avenue.

In fact, when this year's road crash data will be released early next year, it will probably include the case of one distinguished rider, the motorcyclist-in-chief who thankfully figured in a minor mishap within the Malacanang complex, which is not his first accident entry in his motorcycle diaries which span decades.

But the figures I cited above were just the reported ones.

The conventional wisdom is that many accidents go unreported, mutually settled on the spot by the parties who are wary that letting the police intervene will create - and cost - more problems than the mishap itself.

When the injury to the pride is greater than that on the body, the intrepid motorcycle riders of Metro Manila will just dust themselves off. They will treat the incident as part of the hazards of riding a "motorsirko" in a metropolis recently ranked by Waze as having the worst traffic in the world because of its glacial 5 kilometer per hour average travel speed.

That means to drive the distance of a marathon, a Filipino in a car will navigate it in 8 hours, which is more than double the time of Pia's personal best.

The carnage on our streets results in income lost, productivity forfeited, and medical bills for a people who are one hospitalization away from bankruptcy.

For the fatal ones, it leaves behind families who grieve for lives whose full potential will never be realized.

At a personal level, road crashes leave a hole in the heart and on the pocket, but at the macro level, they hurt the economy as well.

The World Bank claims that we could potentially add 7 percent to our GDP if road crashes do not happen.

Against this disheartening backdrop, the best antidote to accidents is the one inside what the helmet covers. Even the best app is no match against the safety consciousness a driver imbibes and practices.

Of course, aside from education, the other two E's, enforcement and engineering - which are government equities in road management - must perform their roles as well.

For as long as the implementation of these two remains spotty, our roads will be hazardous obstacle courses that will challenge even the best educated drivers.

Culture also shapes behavior. When society is blanketed with reminders to drive safe, which likewise serves as commandment to the government to create the right environment, then these practices seep into the national consciousness.

One milestone we should observe is a National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims. It can be used as an occasion to pray for the dead, but more so to push for good policies for the living.

It will also serve two other purposes:

Commemorative, because each one of us has a friend or friends who have perished in road accidents.

The other is preventive, because any organized reminiscences on a national level will inculcate a fear factor that deters unsafe operation of motor vehicles.

There is no vaccine against road crashes. But the mind's powerful ability to remember and learn from tragedies may just save lives.

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