“Road traffic accidents are increasingly being recognized as a growing major issue, particularly in developing countries. They provide significant social and economic losses. The global status on the road safety of 180 countries reported that the worldwide road traffic deaths reach 1.25 million people per year” (WHO, 2015).
Human, vehicle condition and nature are common factors in vehicular accident. Human error can be the physical and mental condition of the driver or the negligence on the part of other road users like pedestrians and other drivers. On the other hand, vehicle condition refers to the poor state of the vehicle like dysfunctional parts or poorly maintained vehicle condition. Nature can also become a factor in vehicular accidents due to the presence of fogs, erosions, slippery roads, sun glares and the aftermath of torrential rain.
Road accidents are measured in terms of the number of persons injured and deaths due to road accidents, whether immediate or within 30 days of the accident, and excluding suicides involving the use of road motor vehicles. A road
motor vehicle is a road vehicle fitted with an engine as the sole means of propulsion and one that is normally used to carry people or goods, or for towing, on the road. This includes buses, coaches, trolleys, tramways (streetcars) and road vehicles used to transport goods and to transport passengers. Road motor vehicles are attributed to the countries where they are registered, while deaths are attributed to the countries in which they occur. This indicator is measured in number of accidents, number of persons, per million inhabitants and million vehicles (https://data.oecd.org/transport/road-accidents.htm).
In Europe, according to Moons and Brijs (2009), road safety is a high priority in research since road accident coast is orders of magnitude higher compared with other types of transportation.
In Maryland, Washington College’s Crime Mapping and Analysis Program (CMAP) provides detailed mapping and analysis products to the Maryland State Police related to traffic accidents for use in their bi-weekly MSP Stat meetings. This detailed mapping and analysis is performed by collecting all traffic accident data for the entire state of Maryland and dividing this data into the 22 Maryland State Police Barrack Districts (Washington College GIS, 2014).
The initial traffic accident analysis overlays individual crash locations, specifically those handled by the Maryland State Police, with a density layer that reflect the areas of that district with the highest crash incidences, or hot spots. Secondary traffic accident analysis focuses the density analysis to only crashes occurring on MSP primary responsibility roadways dictated by MOU’s between Maryland State Police and each County. The same analysis is performed generating a density depicting highest incident crash locations throughout the district, however; this density is generated only from crashes occurring on MSP primary responsibility roads. The top four density areas with the highest occurrence of traffic accidents within each district are highlighted for further analysis. Tertiary traffic accident analysis focuses on these four density areas by zooming in on the high crash density areas and overlaying crash point locations investigated by MSP. Within each of the four focus areas, SHA crash points are selected and analysis is performed on their attribute data for: Accident Severity, the First Harmful Event of the Crash, the Second Harmful Event of the Crash, Collision Type, and the crash Contributing Code (Washington College GIS, 2014).
As speculated in the Asian Development Bank Report (2012), transport is a key sector in the Philippine economy, linking population and economic centers across the islands. The transport system of the Philippines consists of road, water, air, and rail transport. Water transport plays an important role due to the archipelagic nature of the country, but road transport is by far the dominant subsector accounting for 98% of passenger traffic and 58% of cargo traffic. While the transport infrastructure has been developed and spread across the country (about 215,000 kilometers km of roads, 1,300 public and private ports, and 215 public and private airports), the level of service has not been sufficient due to the lack of sustainable financing. Improving transport infrastructure is critical for strengthening the investment climate and enhancing economic growth. The Philippines has seen modest improvement in the quality of its transport services, but a large part of the road network remains in poor condition and intermodal integration is generally weak.
Any moving vehicle can encounter an accident. There are many factors that can lead to a mishap. Most of them could be avoided but ignorance, lacking knowledge; insufficient training and economical pressure make them happen every day. The problem of the Philippines is the size of the country, the splitting into 7107 isolated islands and lacking infrastructure. There is also a cultural problem: Filipinos are fatalists and believers. They rather trust in God than in a regular vehicle check-up. This problem can be associated with the behavior of drivers that makes them negligent in their task behind the wheels. This can be further elaborated on the concept of worldview wherein some cultural groups perform rituals or observe traditions to protect themselves and their community from harm.
Road accidents are the fourth leading cause of death in the Philippines after cardiovascular diseases, malignant neoplasms and pneumonia. This translates to around 36,000 fatalities every year and the trend is increasing. This number includes all road accidents, not only buses.
Based on 2013 data from the Philippines’ Department of Public Works and Highway-Traffic Accident Recording and Analysis System, 1,513 people have died due to road accidents. This suggests that the road accident is a major problem that needs to be addressed in the Philippines. No day passes without a bus accident somewhere in the country. And nearly no day passes by without fatalities in these accidents.
In connection to this, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) also released a report which emphasized that bus accidents happen everywhere in the country and the most deadly accidents happen in mountainous regions because buses that get off the road fall into ravines and roll down mountain slopes. Most accidents happen in the night or during bad weather conditions or a combination of the two reasons.
With the growing number of vehicular accidents in the country, the Traffic Accident Recording Analysis System (TARAS) was developed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to collect road crash data from the Philippine National Police (PNP). TARAS was intended to identify road safety black spots and implement the necessary countermeasures but it was discontinued in 2013 due to logistical challenges of training and re-training PNP officers, as well as supplying traffic accident record forms to the 1,500 police stations nationwide (Sy, 2017). After TARAS, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) consolidated nationwide data on road crashes.
The advance in technology has provided an avenue for both the government and private entities to analyze crime occurrences and vehicular accidents. One useful software is the Geographic Information System (GIS) which utilizes Ground Positioning System (GPS) to accurately locate the places of incidents. It is important to map road accidents not only for record but for analysis that can result to prediction, prevention and control of accidents.
The use of GIS is posited in the research conducted by Ballarta, et Al. (2015) wherein the Metro Manila Accident Reporting and Analysis System (MMARAS) of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority is an on-going database of road crashes in Metro Manila. Its main function is to record, compile and maintain data on road crashes incidents categorized according to being fatal, non-fatal injury and damage to property. MMARAS report is presented in tabular form and is available on a quarterly basis.
It further mentioned that MMARAs is operated by the Road Safety Unit of the MMDA Traffic Discipline Office and Traffic Engineering Center (MMDA-TOD-TOC) in cooperation with the Philippine National Police(PNP) and Traffic Enforcement Group of the National Capital Regional Office (TEG-NCRPO). Information from the MMARAS allows the user to pinpoint and identify accident locations or black spots, and major causes of road crashes and who are frequently involved. It also allows to identify the time of occurrence of road crashes.
In Northern Luzon, the Cordillera Administrative Region is using Police Regional Office Cordillera (PRO-COR) Web-based Crime Mapping to inform the public on the crime “hotspots”. They are also using the GIS in vehicular accidents. The project was developed with the partnership of PRO-COR with the University of the Cordilleras (http://procor.pnp.gov.ph/crimemap/). On August 29, 2013, the capacity of the GIS-BAC to address vehicular accidents was introduced to the personnel of DOTC and DPWH (Ramos, 2014).
“CAR roads are highly susceptible to road cuts/closures and accidents. The roads in CAR incurred the highest in the annual number of road closures at 981 from 2004-2005, affecting some 238 kilometers of national roads and resulting in roughly Php1.171 billion in losses. Moreover, CAR roads are accident prone with the region placing 6th nationwide in 2007 in road accident frequency at 312, with eight incidents or 3 percent traced to road defects,” (CARDP, 2010).
Still in Cordillera, between 2010 to 2011, the Department of Health reported 105 road accident-related deaths with 360 people injured; 26 road accident-related deaths in 2012; 74 in 2013; while over 120 deaths were recorded in 2014 and over 1,000 injuries (Palangchao, 2014).
One of the major roads that connect provinces in Cordillera is the Halsema Highway and it is also a road system that forgives no mistake among road users. However, Halsema Highway was built from a foot trail. Keesing and Keesing (1962, 78) mentioned the letter of Worcester in their book, “We have built a trail to an ugly, fighting, headhunting settlement whose people have at first thrown spears at our road laborers, but later, when they have found out that the trail was going to arrive, have ended up building one out to meet it.”
In another letter wrote by Mrs. Worcester to her mother, she described the trail as, “The little ledge of rock on the side of the mountain with hundreds of feet above and below; I confess I think it takes pretty good nerve to ride along at a trot…on a trail of that sort; especially over places where you can not see the trail at all if you look down over the side of your horse, but look right down to the bottom of everything,” (Chaokas 2009, 92).
Halsema Highway came into existence with the initiative of Eusebius Julius Halsema, Baguio City Mayor for 17 years.
In 1922, the Mountain Trail, which is initially a foot trail that connects Baguio to the Municipality of Bontoc, was built with the cooperation of the people along its route (Halsema, 2004). This claim is supported with the citations of Chaokas (2009, 145) that with the concerted efforts of workmen, and with donations from rich Igorots the Mountain Trail was finally completed in 1930. Chaokas also added, “Even if it was still narrow and dangerous, Bado Dangwa-with a load of passengers, drove his own vehicle for the first time on this famous route.”
To this day, Halsema Highway is known as a mountain road which was constructed to link Baguio City and the agricultural areas of Benguet and Mountain Province, as well as premier tourist destinations in Ifugao (Faustino-Eslava, 2013).
The Halsema Highway runs directly towards Bontoc which is located at the heart of the mountain ranges of Mountain Province and one can reach the place through the foggy, narrow zigzag roads with steep slopes and deep gorges which means death if committed a single mistake. Yet, Bontoc is becoming a tourist destination since it offers a variety of natural wonders and cultural festivals for both local and foreign tourists. It is also becoming a side trip target to some tourists who come from the tourist spots in Sagada and other nearby municipalities. In relation to this study, vehicles of many sorts come and go while it cannot be avoided that accidents happen, given the terrain, road conditions and weather.
It is believed that road accident mapping along the specified stretch of Halsema Highway can benefit travelers through the identification of accident hotspots and the development of focused enforcement activities to mitigate the occurrence of road mishaps and promote safety instead.
With these realities and observations, the researcher was prompted to look into the vehicular accident rate along a specific stretch of the Halsema Highway from Chakcakan, Bontoc Ili to Gonogon, Bontoc from year 2013-2016 and to identify the accident prone areas or “hotspot”. It is also the objective of the study to develop a proposal to focus enforcement activities on the identified “hot spots”.