By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Leila de Lima has sought the passage of a measure seeking to mandate local government units to eliminate any form of obstruction along sidewalks and public roads to ensure the safety and convenience of pedestrians and motorists.
De Lima, in filing Senate Bill No. 1905 or the proposed “Pedestrian Safety Act,” said it is imperative that LGUs implement measures that would free sidewalks and public roads of any obstructions that jeopardize pedestrians’ safety.
“Given the large number of pedestrian fatalities and injuries, there is an urgent need for the government to make our streets pedestrian-friendly,” De Lima said in explaining the bill.
“These road-related injuries can be prevented when the government takes some action to address the problems in road safety,” added the senator, who chairs the Senate committee on social justice, welfare, and rural development.
Under the bill, all pedestrians are prohibited from walking along and upon the portion of a public road paved for vehicular traffic and are required to walk only on the shoulder on the left side of the roadway in relation to the pedestrian’s direction of travel when sidewalks are not provided.
The measure also provides that no person upon roller skates, or riding in or by means of any coaster, toy vehicle, or similar device, may go upon any public road except while crossing a street on a crosswalk.
De Lima, likewise, proposed that when traffic control signals are not in place and no sign indicates otherwise, a motorist shall yield by slowing down or stopping if needed to a pedestrian crossing the road within a marked crosswalk.
She also suggested that a driver be obliged to bring his vehicle to a full stop when a pedestrian is trying to cross a public road, guided by a dog guide or carrying in a raised or extended position a cane or walking stick.
The measure also mandates LGUs to provide sidewalks when there are none, clear any obstructions, and install high visible signs whenever there are ongoing construction activities in the vicinity.
Any person who suffers damage to himself or his property as a result of inadequate sidewalks may file an action for damages against any juridical person or local government unit responsible in the area, based on the bill.
“Unarguably, road accidents are not only caused by erring motorists who refuse to follow the Traffic Code and give way to pedestrians, but likewise by pedestrians who stubbornly place themselves in harm’s way,” she said.
Citing a Global Status Report on Road Safety released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015, she pointed out that more than 1.25 million people die and 50 million more injured from road-related incidents every year globally.
In Metro Manila alone, there were 446 fatalities and 20,876 injuries recorded in road accidents in 2016, with 44 percent of the deaths and 24 percent of those injured being pedestrians.
What is troubling, De Lima said, is the fact that an average of 670 children have perished from 2006 to 2015, due to road accidents.
But most of these road accidents, she said, could have been prevented if both of the pedestrians and motorists alike are well-informed of their rights and duties, “along with a strict adherence to long-established traffic rules and regulations.”