MAKING MOTORING FUN: 1,031 km and not a single set of rumble strips
by GUS LAGMAN
It was not difficult to figure out what they were for. I encountered them for the first time in the late 1980s, while driving from Geneva to Paris. I must have driven over one, certainly not more than two, in the entire route which ran several hundred kilometers. It was many years later that I found out what they were called --- “rumble strips”. And their purpose is to alert drivers who might be feeling drowsy after very long stretches.
Fast forward now to the past decade where we find on Philippine roads, a proliferation of these “calming devices”, as they apparently are officially called, even as their real purpose is to keep drivers alert. It is obvious that their true purpose is now lost on the people who install them, and that’s why I’m writing about it, once again.
You will encounter them on our expressways, on highways, along EDSA and other main thoroughfares in the city, on side-roads, and even inside subdivisions where you might find them before every intersection.
They are installed without rhyme or reason. A couple of examples: A short stretch, maybe only 3 kilometers long, along the Sta. Rosa road to Tagaytay, just before the climb, had, at one time, nine sets of rumble strips! Maybe less now, as some might have finally worn off. The south-bound approach to the Alabang fly-over has 3 sets of rumble strips, plus one more on the slope. Why? No sensible reason; traffic is often heavy in that area, so where’s the long stretch of road? The toll-gate-to-toll-gate distance from Villamor to Alabang is only 11 kilometers!
To make matters worse, those who decide on where those rumble strips should be placed, may not even be aware that there are places where they should NOT be located. Like on curves and peaks of rises where they make those parts of the roads unsafe. But I’ve seen a few of them. The tendency of the tires is to bounce off, on those strips, thus resulting in less traction.
If their reason for installing them is to slow down the vehicles, then they’re not achieving that purpose, because vehicles even speed up over them in order to lessen the rumbling effect on the vehicle. Hardly would you see cars slowing down because of them. Inside subdivisions, speed bumps and speed tables are more effective.
And isn’t it funny? The government fixes ruts on the road because they can destroy the suspension systems of vehicles, aside from their slowing down traffic. Then why does the same government install rumble strips on otherwise smooth roads? It doesn’t make sense. And I understand that the cost of each set of those devices runs in the hundred-thousands. That’s of course a waste of money.
Apart from the money being wasted, they also add to the wear-and-tear of cars and at the very least, are annoying to the drivers.
Where these devices have a real benefit and even help save lives is when they augment the lane markings along the shoulder because they can serve as warning to the driver that his vehicle is going off-road.
If not through these rumble strips, how else can we control the speed of vehicles? The answer is quite simple: Install road signs showing the speed limit for the area ... and apprehend violators. Enforcement of traffic rules is truly the best way of disciplining road users. We see this in the United States, in Europe, and closer to home, in Subic. Strict enforcement of traffic rules will also partly ease up the terrible traffic situation in Metro-Manila and other major cities.
U.S. and European countries have some of the safest roads in the world. They have sufficient road signs that aid the drivers, not only in finding the right routes, but also in being able to drive safely. These countries also have the most disciplined drivers. Yet, you will hardly find rumble strips on their roads.
Only last September, 2016, I drove from Berlin to Prague, then to Chesky Krumlov, Bratislava, and finally, to Vienna (Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria). I logged a total of 1,031 kilometers in that four- day trip. I did not encounter a single set of rumble strips.