The Uso Uso Jeepneys of Davao

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In Davao City, the problem with traffic congestion has gone from bad to worse despite road widening and jeepney rerouting. It seems that the pace at which people are bringing new vehicles on the road is faster than the government can fulfill road expansion or at least get rid of vehicles parked illegally.

People wake up earlier in their effort to reach office or school without getting tardy and marked as absent or penalized with salary deduction. But in most cases traffic in Bajada, Matina or Bangkal gets them cursing in silence while being stuck in a standstill and time seems to drift by ever so quickly. Something must be done.

Enter the “uso uso” jeepneys of Toril, customized vehicles infamous for their loud speaker system (calling them a mobile disco house is not a bad description) but more importantly, their daredevil drivers who defy the rules of speed as though a spacecraft passing through a proverbial wormhole. Some drivers brag that an hour’s worth of travel from poblacion Toril to downtown can be achieved in just 30 minutes or less.

Because of the high speed that these customized jeepneys usually travel, passengers fed up from getting to work or school late often choose them. If “uso uso” were an invention, the necessity to get to destination punctually is the mother of such innovation.

To these time-conscious travelers, these “uso uso” vehicles (loosely translated as the in fashion of today’s riding public) are heaven sent. But to traffic enforcers and nervous passengers they’re easily described as flying coffins. (“Hinayi dong, mulupad man sad atong kalag aning imong kalake!”) Perhaps they’re among the reasons why the city of Davao implemented its comprehensive laws on speed limit.

While these jeepneys have won the hearts of mostly young passengers, their presence on the road adds to the headache of Land Transportation Office who catch them with excess sound speakers. As a music loving nation, Filipinos appreciate listening to music while eating, shopping and of course, while riding the jeepney. But while LTO understand this need, its personnel said only two 20-watt speakers are allowed.

Under the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No.8794 – LTO, it stated that every motor vehicle shall be provided with a horn or signaling device in good working order: Provided, however, that no horn or signaling device emitting an exceptionally loud, startling, or disagreeable sound shall be installed or used on any motor vehicle.

No vehicle not classified as a motor vehicle under this Act shall be equipped with a horn or signaling device similar to the horn customarily used on motor vehicles.

Not all will agree, but the law is the law. And while excessive sound in the vehicle is annoying at best, the more serious matter is the safety of passengers on high-speed jeepney journeys. In the past, lives have been lost and properties have been damaged due to the hazards of managing these type of vehicles.

Time will tell whether these uso uso jeepneys will continue to ply their trade as the demand continues — or if it finally gets caught in the web of the law or deemed unnecessary as new road projects will ease traffic congestion or new mode of transportation gets introduced sometime in Davao’s future.

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