Traffic > Appraisal

Is this junction in Makati a ticket trap?

Be wary of the intersection between Buendia Avenue and Osmeña Highway

If you frequent this area, you know that enforcers love to camp out at this exact intersection. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

A ticket trap is a cultural term usually given to an area or place where the road layout or signage is at the very least unclear, leading to motorists being stopped and fined in circumstances that leave them questioning the fairness of the process.

We can’t say what is or what isn’t a ticket trap for obvious legal reasons. What we can do is present you with the facts and see what the public consensus is. Such as with the junction of Buendia Avenue and Osmeña Highway (or South Superhighway) in Makati. Most of you will be familiar with it as it is a very busy area of town.

Apparently, you're supposed to turn left if you're staying in the left lane. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

My longtime friend and fellow ticket-trap investigator Vincent Lazatin also knows it well, or so he thought. He recently traveled along the northbound side of South Superhighway Service Road, and following a legal U-turn further down, he stayed on the leftmost of the three lanes in busy traffic with a view to going straight past Buendia and on toward Vito Cruz.

He was following a box van and a motorbike doing the exact same thing—going straight across the junction on the leftmost of the three lanes—when a traffic enforcer jumped out and stopped him. Lucky for us, he caught the whole thing on dashcam. The video can be seen on his Twitter account here.

He stopped as instructed and politely asked what the violation was. The answer he received was that he should have turned left because he was in the left lane. When he queried if there was a sign stating this somewhere that he may have missed, he was told that if there is a left arrow, you must turn left if you’re in the leftmost lane, even if all three lanes continue straight (as they do here).

No clear road markings or signs here, so how will first-timers find out the 'left lane for left turn only' rule? PHOTOS BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

This didn’t quite sound right to him, and so he posted it on his Twitter account to seek some clarification from Makati authorities (who, very commendably, do engage with citizens) and the public. I dropped him a message, and we decided to investigate.

Just like we have done a few times before, we went to the location to try and find out what the score was. First, we had a look at the junction and the road leading toward it. As you can see in the pictures, there are no roadside signs or road markings of any kind before, at or after the junction that we could see indicating the left lane must turn left. There is only a set of traffic lights with a straight and a left-pointing arrow.

Annoyingly, motorcycles manage to go straight scot-free, while private vehicles are pulled aside right away. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

We also observed what seemed like inconsistent enforcement. Just like in the video of his apprehension, enforcers seemed to primarily target private cars, and we saw numerous bikes and commercial vehicles pass in the left lane without being stopped, while at least one motorist in a black MPV was stopped for going straight across while we were there.

Spotting a few enforcers standing nearby, we also approached them and asked what the rules are. The reply we received was that “if there’s a green arrow, the left lane must turn left” rule was communicated to them by their higher-ups, and they were simply enforcing based on what they had been told.

Don't you think it's questionable how this 'trap' has not been addressed yet? PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

We were unable to identify any piece of firm, written road rules or regulations backing this up, and the (very polite) enforcers we spoke to couldn’t point us to one either. Republic Act No. 4136 only mentions turns at junctions in a different context in Section 41, and doesn’t seem to cover this case in Section 45 (turns at intersections) either.

Maybe someone can point us to another piece of legislation covering this? At the moment, we think that this situation requires some official clarification at the very least, and we would very much welcome the powers-that-be to get in touch with us to confirm the rules at this junction (and all such junctions, actually). It would be nice to be provided a legal basis for these.

We all appreciate that driving around here is hard, and we don’t for one moment say Makati enforcers did anything wrong. All we ask is for fair and consistent enforcement of rules laid down in law.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.