What constitutes reckless driving?

 

By Rose de la Cruz

 

Oftentimes, the driver of a big vehicle that got involved in a road accident gets to be arrested and jailed even if the driver of a motorcycle or smaller car is the one at fault. It is always presumed that because of sheer size, he is more answerable to the offense than the small-sized unit driver.

 

This is exactly what happened last November to Tedy Gotis, the driver of a gasoline delivery company, who was hit on the side by a drunken teenager, who was speeding along the national road of Barangay Putatan in Muntinlupa City to buy a cigarette.

 

He was freed (after being detained for reckless imprudence that resulted in the death of the teenager who did not wear a helmet) by the police after his company, Gqdm Red Movers Corp., paid the “victim’s” parents P200,000 to P250,000.

 

Respected motoring columnist, James Deakin in his Facebook post, said Gotis was immediately arrested for reckless imprudence resulting in death “simply because our laws, or the misapplication and interpretation of it, automatically holds the bigger vehicle or uninjured party liable for someone else’s stupidity and irresponsibility.”

Similarly, shortly before Christmas Day, a jeepney was speeding and overtaking another vehicle when it crashed into a Partas bus on the northbound lane of the Manila North Road in Barangay San Jose, Agoo, La Union. The jeepney had 29 passengers, of which 19 died in the crash including a six-month old baby. The passengers were an extended family from Barangay Pilar, Bauang and were bound for the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Manaoag. Partas vowed to help defray the burial cost of up to P15,000 to the families of the fatalities.

In North Cotabato, eight people heading home to Arakan were killed when the jeepney they were riding fell into a cliff in President Roxas on Christmas Eve. They had been shopping in Kidapawan and were going home for Christmas dinner when the accident happened. Its driver, Wenfred Inutan, 32, said the brakes failed as he was negotiating a downhill portion of the highway. It flipped several times after smashing into the guardrail on the roadside then went over the edge and crashed into an African palm oil plantation below.

More injuries occurred before Christmas including, a woman killed and 25 people injured with many of them victims of motorcycle crashes, hit and run, reckless driving and faulty brakes.

Bill filed

Rep. Neil Abayon of Aangat Tayo partylist and assistant minority leader said these senseless and avoidable road mishaps prompted him, as member of the Committee on Transportation, to file House Bill 6925 (Philippine Responsible Driving and Accountability Act), which intends to update the country’s road safety laws and statutes on criminal, civil, and administrative culpability and liability of drivers involved in traffic violations and road safety incidents.

 

This bill, the first to be filed this year, also defines different types of unsafe driver behavior: dangerous driving; reckless driving; suicidal driving; terroristic driving; careless driving; impaired driving; and irresponsible custody of vehicle

 

He said that under current laws and procedures, drivers or motorists involved in road safety incidents and traffic violations are presumed at fault even when pedestrians and/or other motorists are at fault or also share fault. This bill seeks to make our laws also fair to the drivers who were not at fault.

 

In this bill, the driver is presumed to be not initially culpable or not totally at fault for the incident under investigation when:

 

1)   the victim is intoxicated or under the influence of illegal drugs or prescription medication;

2)   the victim was not crossing the street at a pedestrian lane or road intersection;

3)   the victim crossed the street or highway instead of using a nearby pedestrian footbridge;

4)   the victim is a bicycle rider not wearing safety devices or wearing dark clothing;

5)   the victim is a driver of a motorcycle, bicycle, or tricycle traveling on a national highway under the minimum speed limit and not on the rightmost lane of the roadway;

6)   the victim is a driver who, at the exact time of the incident, did not have right of way on the road;

7)   the driver did not flee from the scene of the road safety incident;

8)   the driver was suffering, at the time of the incident, a medical emergency such as a heart attack, stroke, asthma attack, or diabetes shock; and

9)   the driver of the other vehicle has non-functional or lacking in head lights, tail lights, and other warning devices.

 

The driver involved in a road safety incident is presumed to be initially culpable when:

 

1)          the driver flees from the scene of the road safety incident;

2)          the driver was driving at high speed according to recorded eyewitness accounts taken at the scene of the road safety incident;

3)          the driver had just committed at least one serious traffic violation;

4)          the driver is intoxicated or under the influence of illegal drugs or prescription medication;

5)          the driver does not have a driver’s license or has an expired driver’s license; and

6)          the victim is a child younger than fifteen (15) years of age.

 

This bill also provides for the following mitigating circumstances in driving violations:

 

1)  Fast driving due to medical emergency to rush to a hospital or other medical facility for immediate care;

2)  Pursuit of a suspect in a crime who is fleeing or has just fled from the scene of a crime;

3)  Rushing home or to workplace because of a fire or other disaster; and

4)  Serious to gross defects in the design and construction of roads and bridges, and of traffic signs and warnings.

      

The initial presumption of culpability shall be determined by the person in authority or law enforcer who is first at the scene of the incident or on whom continuing investigative responsibility is vested by competent authority over the road safety incident resulting in death, injury, destruction of property, or traffic congestion.

 

He said the determination of initial culpability must be either in writing in a traffic incident report or orally, in the presence of witnesses, while the law enforcer’s lawful arrest without warrant or civilian citizen’s arrest is being made.

 

A person in authority or deputized law enforcer may order the confiscation or personally and immediately confiscate the driver’s license of a suspected erring driver to prevent or avoid probable immediate future danger to self or other persons on the road or sidewalk.

 

Whether the driver or drivers are initially culpable or not, the law enforcer investigating the road safety incident is required to secure the signed and sworn statements of the drivers and other persons involved in and who witnessed the incident. 

 

 

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