Should the expressways’ speed limit be increased?
Driving on the world-class expressways of Luzon is a joy, especially on the elevated portion of the South Metro Manila Skyway where heavy cargo trucks and container vans are not allowed. Naturally, those driving high-powered and/or new cars are tempted to exceed the 100 km per hour speed limit for cars and wish that the speed limit would be increased.
While driving on the Skyway System (elevated and ground level), South Luzon Expressway (SLEx), North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) can be fun, it’s no fun getting apprehended for overspeeding. A week or so ago I was a passenger in a car with a professional driver at the wheel when we were flagged down at that section of the northbound elevated Skyway where the traffic law enforcers set up orange pylons along the lanes and a tent in the curbside bay. The driver had been cruising at 120 kph most of the way.
The driver told me the following week that retrieving his license at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) headquarters in Quezon City cost him a total of P1,270 in penalties, which we earlier thought would amount to only P500 or so. Worse, he had to attend a seminar in a hot, overcrowded un-air conditioned room along with dozens of other erring drivers. One of these was an American expat who said he was apprehended for driving at 110 kph on the elevated Skyway.
The Skyway O & M Corp. (SOMCO) which operates and manages the South Metro Manila Skyway and the Manila Toll Expressway System Corp. (MATES) which operates the SLEx, began strictly enforcing the speed limits (100 kph for cars and jeeps, 80 kph for buses and trucks, 60 kph minimum for all vehicles) last March and apprehended 434 overspeeding motorists during the first four days of that month. Most of these were buses on the SLEx while at the Skyway System most were cars.
Like other motorists, I thought at first that overspeeding motorists were spotted by 43 Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras installed at the Skyway System. But like at the NLEx, speed radar guns monitor vehicles traversing the Skyway. The radar guns are held and operated by deputized Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) officers from an unmarked vehicle parked along the NLEx. At the Skyway, watch out for HPG officers who stay on the center island, pointing radar guns at oncoming vehicles.
The Skyway Patrol men are not authorized to apprehend overspeeding motorists although they coordinate with the HPG in enforcing traffic regulations. At the NLEx, the HPG officers radio ahead to their colleagues at the toll gates the description and license plate number of an overspeeding car so that 200 meters before the toll gate, the offending motorist can be apprehended.
Some motorists want the speed limit to be raised. They cite the higher speed limit for motorways (highways) in other Asian countries, such as Malaysia where it is 110 kph, Thailand’s 120 kph, China’s 110-120 kph and Hong Kong’s 110 kph. But as Automobile Association Philippines (AAP) president Gus Lagman says, we must remember that the most fuel-efficient speed range is 80-85 kph. You may reach your destination 10 or 20 minutes ahead of a slower driver if you maintain a consistent speed of 110 kph or 120 kph on the expressway, but think of how much fuel you have wasted and the bigger carbon footprint you have left.
Legislators who plan to increase the speed limit on expressways are advised to consult the tollway operators, research centers like the University of the Philippines-National Center for Transportation Studies (UP-NCTS), government agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Land Transportation Office (LTO) and other institutions that collect data on road accidents.
Lagman and AAP veep Johnny Angeles, who chairs the Road Safety Committee, suggest a variable speed limit similar to what is done in Singapore. In that city state, the speed limit varies, “As Sign Posted,” which means that traffic signs post varying speed limits—higher in segments where the highway is wider and has less traffic, lower in parts where the highway has only two lanes and is heavily congested.
For example, Lagman and Angeles opine that on the northbound NLEx from Balintawak to Tabang Junction, the 100 kph speed limit should be maintained. After Tabang up to San Fernando, Pampanga, traffic flow is lighter on the northward three-lane NLEx, so the speed limit may be increased to 110 kph.
Angeles suggests that a big sign announcing “Speed monitored by radar” should be posted together with the speed limit signs to remind motorists and prevent a feeling of entrapment among those caught overspeeding.