Upskilling traffic police officers to tackle speeding in the Philippines
In 2019, traffic or road accidents claimed 13,000 lives in the Philippines. That means about one per 8,300 Filipinos. There are many factors that contribute to such sobering statistics — but bright spots in this space include new legislations that tackle speeding, drink driving, and helmet or seatbelt use, among others.
Now, the focus is on actually making sure that people abide by these laws. “To save more lives, we need better enforcement,” Dr. Gundo Weiler, the World Health Organization Representative in the Philippines, previously said.
In a recent ADB Transport knowledge sharing webinar, speed enforcement in the Philippines was the highlight of a presentation by the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP). “We focus on the capacity building for law enforcement agencies,” explained Marcin Flieger, Manager for Road Policing Capacity Building at the GRSP.
Flieger’s teammate, Senior Officer Robert Susanj, went on to share how he worked with local law enforcement agencies in the Philippines over six months to train officers in speed enforcement basics. Within that time, there was a “need to establish a speed enforcement system, a need to ‘train the trainers’, and start local training”.
Traffic police officers in this training programme learned best practices; the latest speed measurement technologies; how to prepare speed checkpoints; and how to conduct speed enforcement safely. “Stopping vehicles at high speed is dangerous, and there are no possible shortcuts,” Susanj noted. Officers were also trained to use different speed measuring devices, he added.
Susanj was keen to point out that physical policing goes hand in hand with the use of automated enforcement, such as speed cameras. “Automated enforcement is very effective in ‘black spots’, where traffic volume is higher. Physical policing can also support,” he said. “Not only for speed enforcement, but to check drivers for other violations — [related] risk factors like drunk driving.”
Within just six months, the programme had trained 150 officers across the Philippines. 150 trained officers, armed with ten devices, sounds like a relatively low number, Susanj remarked. Consider that the Philippines has a population of over 100 million and a network of 33 million kilometres of roads.
But it is a promising start. Imagine if each device was used just five hours a day, for five days a week, and caught five speeding drivers an hour, Susanj went on to say. Theoretically, an estimated 30,000 speeding drivers could be stopped in a period of four months.
“Even 150 officers with only ten devices could achieve an amazing effect on the public and their attitude,” he said. This does not even take into account the word-of-mouth among drivers to look out for these devices, or if there was a large media campaign to build awareness of the dangers of speeding.
Road safety, whether within the Philippines or beyond, is an evolving challenge. It continues to be a major priority for ADB’s Developing Member Countries, noted Jamie Leather, transport safety chief of the ADB, in his opening remarks for the webinar. His words summarise the very real human cost at stake: “It’s the end users, it’s the population who suffers — both from fatalities, but also from the serious injuries.”