Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, January 27, 2006

NLEX collisions blamed on ‘driver’s error’


MALOLOS CITY — Some motorists asked yesterday the operator of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to ensure safety on the tollway in the wake of last Wednesday’s collisions that killed three persons and injured 23 others.

The operator, Manila North Tollway Corp. (MNTC), said, however, that the expressway has built-in world-class safety standards and that driver’s error was the main cause of the accidents.

MNTC President and CEO Jose "Ping" de Jesus assured the general public that the NLEX was built according to world-class standards which give utmost priority to public safety.

"We offer our sympathies to the bereaved families of the fatalities, knowing that a life lost is irreplaceable," he said.

"For this reason, we make sure that the NLEX is safe, but at the same time, we advise all motorists to be aware of the hazards of speeding beyond limits," De Jesus said.

He said most road accidents were principally caused by driver’s error, adding some drivers have the tendency to maintain high speed despite the rain that drastically reduces tire traction.

"No road, no matter how perfectly built, could guarantee zero accident if the drivers are not careful," De Jesus said.

Nevertheless, the MNTC executive said a thorough investigation is being conducted on these unfortunate incidents.

MNTC consulting engineers and traffic enforcers launched the probe as NLEX traffic crews intensified patrol to alert motorists to observe safe driving and the speed limits that are prominently displayed on NLEX signs.

However, some motorists said that it is the duty of the operator of NLEX to ensure road safety because they are collecting "exorbitant toll fees" from them.

Some of the motorists said that accidents, like what happened last Wednesday, would have been avoided if the operator of the tollway dispatched patrol teams that would have enforced precautionary measures.

"Dapat me nag-tra-traffic o me mga warning signs silang inilalagay kapag me nasisiraan or umuulan ng malakas. Alam na nilang me zero visibility e dapat nagawan nila iyon ng paraan. Sa laki ng sinisingil nila dapat lang na masiguro nila na ligtas ang pagbiyahe sa expressway," said a motorist identified as Jo dela Cruz.

The accidents, which involved 18 vehicles, happened at the Sta. Rita-Pulilan portion of the NLEX Wednesday afternoon.

The three fatalities who were declared dead on arrival at the Bulacan Polymedic Hospital were identified as Josephine Kohjun, wife of Subic (Zambales) Mayor Jeffrey Kohjun; Jocelyn Reyes; and Elmo dela Cruz, driver of the Genesis bus that also figured in the mishap.

Treated for injuries at the same hospital were Roger Batunga of Subic, Zambales; Myrna Santos, 47, Jon Jon Valeta, 27, both of Marilao, Bulacan; Francisco Placido, 30, of Silang, Cavite; Leticia Palad of Pampanga; and Noel Santiago of Bataan.

The other injured victims were brought to the Bulacan Provincial Hospital.

The freak accident happened as intermittent rains pounded many parts of Bulacan.

Motorists said that aside from near-zero visibility on NLEX, the road was slippery due to the rains which also caused flashfloods in low-lying areas.

Reports said the accident occurred when a Toyota Hi-Ace van turned turtle at a slippery portion of the expressway near the Sta. Rita exit.

In a span of few minutes, several other vehicles figured in the mishaps. These include the ill-fated Genesis bus which rammed several vehicles before skidding and ramming a parked truck that stopped on the outer lane of the expressway due to engine trouble.

The freak mishap created a mammoth traffic jam on the expressway, stranding hundreds of vehicles and thousands of commuters and motorists.

The congestion lasted until 9 p.m. Wednesday.


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