In the Philippines, motorcycle accidents are one of the highest vehicular-related accident categories. In 2020 alone, Metro Manila recorded a record-breaking count of over 20,000 accidents related to motorcycles—of which, over 1% caused death. The vast majority of accidents in the Philippines were found to have occurred on public roads within populated districts, however, accidents do still happen in the outskirts of town or inroads primarily traversed by cars rather than motorcycles. While motorcycle-related accidents can in fact happen anywhere, motorists with motorcycles with an engine displacement of 400cc or higher may second guess the safety of our toll roads. The fact of the matter is that highways are not as dangerous as non-highway roads, given that the majority of the accidents that happen in the country are not found on highways. However, highway riding does pose a different kind of threat, and injury severity may be one to look out for. Here are a few things to watch out for.
Unlike city and provincial roads, toll roads in and around the Metro Manila region have speed restrictions to follow. We’re all familiar with the maximum highway speed of 100 km/h for private vehicles, but toll roads also implement a minimum speed of around 60 km/h—this means that the average speed of motorists on these roads is far higher than your average provincial backroad or national highway. Speed, however, is not dangerous in itself. What is dangerous however is cruising at a speed that is significantly different from the average speed of motorists around you. The difference in speed between a motorcyclist can be a strong cause for accidents. Go too fast and you won’t be able to slow yourself down in time if a vehicle abruptly joins your lane, go too slow and cars or motorcyclists behind you won't be able to stop in time for the same reason. Gauge the average speed of motorists around you and cruise at the appropriate speed to remain within a good margin of safety.
Unlike many non-toll roads, highway riding does come with its own etiquette whether purposefully implemented by highway enforcers or implied by riding and driving norms. The first is to only overtake cars in front of you on the left lane. Overtaking on the right is dangerous as this maneuver will take place in the driver’s blind spot—which is why highway signs always point towards the leftmost lane as the designated overtaking lane. Related to this, swerving on the highway is frowned upon and is considered reckless driving. Unlike in city and provincial roads where swerving is more common (but still illegal), motorists on the highway typically stick to one lane only since all vehicles are moving at similar speeds. The need to change lanes frequently is not present and as a result, drivers and riders are less wary about motorists going in and out of lanes so aggressively. As such, it will be an added safety layer to follow the same. Stick to one or two lanes and only overtake on the left. This way you will be able to protect yourself and prevent scaring innocent drivers and riders who may overreact to dangerous maneuvers.
While preventing swerving, speeding, and improper overtaking may help prevent accidents from occurring on the highways, motorcyclists also have to be more aware of a few dangers which highway riding may pose than riding on your average city street may not. Firstly, while highways are generally free-flowing, traffic buildup can occur on certain sections of the highway during busy rush hour traffic, or when an accident occurs. When there is traffic, lane filtering may pose its own threat as automobile riders generally don’t expect motorcycles to lane filter. Be cautious during traffic scenarios. Motorists are more concerned about getting past the traffic on the highway than watching their rearview mirrors for lane-filtering motorcyclists.
Secondly, highways also have expansion joints on some bridges. These expansion joints are made of metal and are designed to accommodate the natural expansion and contraction of concrete and asphalt when the road becomes excessively hot or cool. As such, when the weather is rainy, riding over these expansion joints at speed can cause your wheel to lose grip if you are accelerating or decelerating over these joints. Remain loose and calm over these joints and don’t engage in abrupt motions such as lane changes or heavy throttling and braking.
Lastly, while highways generally have smooth pavement, there are still instances of small bumps or potholes that can be found on the road. Going through these at excessive speeds and abrupt lane changes may cause a motorcycle to lose stability. When riding through the highways, pay extra caution to the road imperfections ahead and avoid them accordingly in order to be a safe rider.
Being a safe rider on the highway is not necessarily easier than being a safe rider outside the highway. All roads require a certain level of caution and highway riding requires a different level of awareness which may not always be applicable to city and provincial roads. Enjoying your cruise through the toll roads of the country is not impossible, but always remember that the highway will need a different sense of vigilance and alertness. Follow the rules, ride appropriately, and pay extra caution to the obstacles on the road and the behaviors of fellow motorists in order to be a safe rider on these roads so you can enjoy many more days out on the road and on two wheels.