MY THEORY when it comes to traveling has always been like this: the lesser the gears, the lesser the wheels, the safer the ride. No wonder, bus rides during my summer excursions in the ‘90s kept me squeamish and nauseated while treading the uncanny roads to and from Manila.

This is practically the same reason why I have been consistently nagging my mom to get me a motorcycle ever since I was a kid. In my mind, bikers have always been cool, and just thinking about how soothing the wind will feel once I zoom in with my Japanese ride irks me as I can’t get one for myself.

But then again, there’s always the downside. The growing number of motorcycle accidents may have discarded my theory.

According to records of the Metropolitan Road Safety Unit of the Metro Manila Development Authority’s Traffic Operations Center, motorcycles mishaps have the highest fatality accident rate, with 122 motorcycles involved, or 23.60 percent of total fatal accidents. Cars followed with 113 or 21.86 percent based on the survey from January to December 2006.

Health undersecretary for health operations Dr. Ethelyn Nieto has also cited statistics from the Traffic Management Group which showed that out of the total 14,202 traffic accidents in 2004, 3,010 or 21 percent involved motorcycles. The numbers rose the following year to 24 percent or 2,798 out of 11,425 accidents.

Meanwhile, as said by Dr. Soe Nyunt-U, World Health Organization representative to the Philippines, studies have shown that motorcyclists rank second to pedestrians as the most vulnerable group of road users.

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As Nieto has concluded in a forum for road safety for motorcycle riders, the drastic rise in tatality is alarming, and even more so now that the Land Transportation Office records from 2004 to 2006 reveal that motorcycles are now the third most registered vehicles next to cars at 66.3 percent of the total.

Taking into consideration a steady increase in registered motorcyclists in the proceeding years, the process of issuing licenses to motorcyclists should be reviewed and laden with more appropriate standards for strict compliance.

Precautionary measures promoting road safety should be reiterated and even given more emphasis. Safety equipments such as protective pads and eye shields should also be sported by riders and their passengers. If cars have to comply with Republic Act 8750 or the Seat Belt law, why not craft a provision for a “helmet law,” which should be a pre-requisite for motorcyclists driving on public highways?

Just like Nieto, I agree that full awareness of the bike rider regarding his surroundings is a key factor in being safe while traversing roads filled with bulky vehicles such as trucks and buses.

Despite of all the ugly stuff about the motorcycle, I still want to own one because I firmly believe things happen for a reason and the reason why accidents happen is carelessness. An ounce of prevention, after all, may have been worth more than just a pound of cure.

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