Expats Guide: What You Need to Know about Motorcycle Laws

Motorcycle use in the Philippines is an absolute option for many Filipinos and even expats to shorten travel time while conquering the ‘mighty’ traffic. Motorcycles are seen anywhere in the country. They are like mushrooms: they somewhat appear out of nowhere. And what’s even worse? It is that they are like umbrellas; almost given as freebies because of the very affordable down payment cost (promo such as Php 999 or $19.98) anyone can be tempted to take a loan despite having five working units at home.

Setting traffic and inconveniences (heavy rain and extreme heat) aside, many people take motorcycle as an alternative to cars because it is cheaper to run, easier to park, more flexible in traffic, less cost for repairs, it can stop anywhere, it is harder to tow, and of course, it makes the driver look and feel good (especially if he’s driving a big bike with a very unique model / design).

However, with the advantages of the motorcycle comes their great disadvantage as well.

Motorcycle riders are the most vulnerable road users based on studies conducted by Phil. Statistics Authority (PSA) & Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). In fact, it has been recorded to have three times higher cases of road-related accidents compared to cars. With this in mind plus the ‘mighty’ traffic in the megacities of the Philippines, you can be caught in a definitely trying situation every day.

Now, let’s be acquainted on the basic laws, local rules and regulations you need to know while riding your motorcycle on Philippine roads. This is not just to avoid traffic but more importantly, comply with the regulations to avoid fines and penalties.

1)  Obtaining a Driver’s License is a Must

Expats coming in the Philippines usually have their International Driving License (IDL) with them. The IDL is valid for 90 days but if expats plan to rent a motor vehicle for a longer period, it is better to have its validity extended up to 1 year. However, if expats plan to stay in the country for more than a year to settle, getting a Philippine Driver’s License is a sensible idea.

In the Philippines, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) is the agency in-charge in the processing of applications or renewal of driver’s license. However, there are specific processes and requirements that you must be aware of for you to have a smooth process during application. There are two types of driver’s license you can apply for: Professional or Non-Professional.

Professional Driver’s License allows you to drive a jeepney, taxi, or any other vehicle which gives you the consent to collect money. On the other side, the Non-Professional Driver’s License is limited to private motor vehicles only where collection of money is prohibited. With lesser complications on the requisites for application, the Non-Professional Driver’s License is much preferred and highly recommended.

Here is the list of some basic requirements prior to going to the LTO:

  • You must be physically fit to drive (as shown in your medical certificate);
  • You must at least understand basic English or Tagalog;
  • You must not be an alcoholic or a drug user (a drug test is required and the result must show it is ‘negative’);
  • You must wear a decent attire (no shorts, sleeveless & slippers);
  • You must bring your passport (which clearly shows your face, nationality, age, gender, etc);
  • You must bring your original birth certificate (with photocopy) and a joint affidavit of two disinterested persons who know you and who can attest to your identity;
  • You must also bring your original ACR (Alien Certificate of Registration) (with photocopy) which is obtainable at the Immigration Office;
  • Your must also show your visa allowing you to stay in the country for at least five months and a proof you have already been in the country for at least one month. A contract from your work is advisable as well;
  • Your must also present a completely filled-out application form to the designated LTO counter / window once your name or priority number is called;
  • Last but not the least, you must bring with you your money (it is recommended that it is in Philippine currency) for the application fee.

If you decide to convert your foreign license, bring the original and a photocopy of your foreign license. If it is not in English, it must be translated by the embassy or consular offices.
With complete requirements, processing of your application can be within just a day. For the full details of processing your application, open this link: http://www.lto.gov.ph/license-permit-issuance/284-non-professional-driver-s-license.html. Always remember that driving without license is punishable by law.

2)    Mandatory Vehicle Registration is equally another Must

The Land Transportation and Traffic Code or RA 4136 requires all motor vehicles to be properly registered for the current year while it is being operated on or upon any public highway of the Philippines. The registration is mandatory for all motor vehicles. The main purpose of the annual registration (or renewal of registration) is to establish the identity, classification and ownership of the motor vehicle as well as check its roadworthiness.

Just a quick fact: Motor vehicle means any vehicle propelled by power other than muscular power using the public highways. Road rollers, trolley cars, street sweepers, sprinklers, lawn mowers, bulldozers, graders, forklifts, amphibian trucks, vehicles which run only on rails or tracks, and tractors, trailers and traction engines of all kinds used exclusively for agricultural purposes and cranes are exempted unless these are used on public highways. Without updated registration, your motor vehicle might be towed and put into LTO’s impounding area.

3)  Motorcycle Helmet Act

All motorcycle riders as per requirement of the Motorcycle Helmet Act or RA 10054 are mandatorily required to wear a protective helmet at all times while driving, whether long or short distances, in any type of road or highway. Motorcycle ‘riders’ do not solely cover those driving the motorcycle only but the back riders as well. Only one back rider is allowed per travel. Exempted of this law are drivers of tricycles (tricycles or pedicabs are commonly used as a local mode of transportation in the remote areas of the country).

Just a quick fact: All motorcycle helmets are required to be tested. Manufacturers and importers of protective helmets are required to secure a PS license or ICC prior to the sale and distribution of their products to ensure that the helmets sold/used really offers the optimum protection for its users. Traffic enforcers of LTO or its deputized policemen or MMDA personnel might flag you down to check if your helmets bear the aforementioned stickers. Without the sticker, your driver’s license maybe confiscated, and fines and penalties will be imposed.

4)  No Helmet Policy

Contrary to the mandates of RA 10054, there exists ‘No Helmet Policy’ in some parts of the country. As helmets are known to protect the riders from fatal head injuries, helmets as well as bonnets are also being used by criminals to take advantage of the law by using it to conceal their faces in doing criminal acts such as snatching or extrajudicial killing. In order to visibly see the full faces of riders accessing public roads, the policy has been substantially enforced by some municipalities.

Places implementing this are Morong Rizal, some parts of Bulacan, Tagbilaran City, and Zamboanga City.

5)  Children’s Safety on Motorcycles Act

The country just recently passed into law the Children’s Safety on Motorcycles Act or RA 10666 banning small children from riding as passengers of two-wheeled motor vehicles. This is applicable to both Filipinos and expats in the country.

Children are strictly prohibited from sitting in your front while driving your motorcycle. Aside from that, children below 18 years of age may only be allowed as your back rider under the following circumstances:

  • If your child wears the standard protective helmet or gear;
  • If your child’s arms can reach around and grasp your (driver) waist;
  • If your child comfortably reaches his or her feet on the standard foot peg of your motorcycle.

Just a quick fact: Medical emergencies exempt the riders from following the standard requirements of this law. If found guilty of violating the law (which resulted to cause injury or death of the child passenger or any other person), you can be imprisoned for at least one year.

Driving can bring you anywhere you want to go. Just bear in mind that in every place you want to be, the government imposes different sets of rules and regulations that locals as well as expats are expected to observe.

Complying with the provisions of the law doesn’t mean that you’re a boring a person. It just means that you’re mature enough to think of the possible consequences of your disobedience that may endanger lives on the road. Who knows, the life you might be saving is yours. . .



Expats in the Philipppines

Expats in the Philipppines

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