"Driving" us crazy?
Driving in the Philippines is no easy task. During college, I had an American classmate and friend, Roy Neely, who said the first thing he learned when he came over is to drive like a Filipino. I would not have known what this truly meant until I have learned how to drive myself, and most importantly, experienced driving in a foreign land. Of course, I have always heard about the notoriety of Filipino drivers but experiencing it first hand and noting the differences, still comes like a shock. I have even heard we are one of the worst drivers, second only to the Italians (but I have not confirmed that).
The first thing I noticed is the discipline on the road. This is paramount! When I first drove in Canada, I was confused about the three and four-way corners. I knew each car in an intersection is supposed to take turns in going. However, what I could not understand is who has the right to go first when two or three cars came to the intersection at the same time. remember I always had to ask Arlene, "Is it my turn yet?" You know how it is in intersections without a stoplight here in the country. Whoever has the guts to go first goes. We usually create a big pile-up in intersections on busy days, do we not?
Passing lanes - another ignored rule. Just a few days ago, I almost hit another van who suddenly stopped while we were about to overtake another car. Why? He noticed something wrong with his engine. No forwarning signs, no hassle lights no anything. I heard the car behind me shout, "take it to the service lane instead of suddenly stopping on the fast lane!"
Public utility vehicle drivers stop at will anywhere at anytime. I took a bus going to Alabang one time and I got pissed at the bus driver who stop right at the foot of the bridge in Makati going to Magallanes waiting for passengers. This looks like a common practice with these drivers plying the Alabang route. The pink barricades instituted by Fernando do not work. These buses would stay there for a long time, inching forward and stopping again just to make it appear that they are about to leave so that passengers would be lured to ride. Very annoying. The thing is commuters condone this practice. Everybody is so keen on getting to their destination and take these buses rather than walk to the designed stations.
Second is the rule on pedestrians. Anywhere else in the world, pedestrians have the right of way. Once a pedestrian steps on the street pavement, drivers have to stop to let them cross the street. Not so here. Pedestrians have to wait until the side of the street is clear. Well, we have been taght to look left and right before crossing the street, right? A very prudent advice should I say.
They also have buttons on lamp posts which the pedestrian presses when he/she wants to cross the street. Now, if you have walked along Taft Avenue, you'll see the same device but will figure out that these do not work.
Street signs! There you go. Should I delve deeper on these ? There was once a tv show that made a report on drivers, who were supposed to be professionals, who did not know what most of the signs were. Scary!
Speed limits are practically non-existent. However, with the traffic situation, this may not pose too much of a problem. Hmm, so traffic jams come in handy, eh?
What could be the reasons behind the differences? I figure this can be due to several things. First and foremost is cultural.
We as a people have been programmed to think that the other person would understand. Take a jeepney driver for instance. When a passenger is going to alight from his vehicle, he would not bother going to the sides as it would only take several seconds for the passenger to get off his vehicle. As if there is an unwritten code that drivers who encounter this situation should understand for after all, its just for a few seconds. The thing is, there might be more than one and not to mention, another group of people who is going in.
Another reason may be lack of education. Let us face it. Most of these drivers were taught not by true professionals who know and observe road courtesy but bad drivers themselves. There is a rather nasty term for these drivers - bastos (rude) This brings to mind the time I took my driver's license. I perfected the written exams but I was sure I should have failed the practical exam. The engine died on me several times. I almost hit someone when the vehicle jerked. (It was not my own vehicle) To my surprise, I saw my grade and it was 96!
This brings me to my next point - corruption! Drivers do not fear traffic enforcers because they get away with their offenses through bribery. If only one hundred percent of the traffic enforcers were honest, imagine what hassles a driver have to face retrieving his/her license. That ought to make him/her follow the rules, right? This extends to LTO offices. Fixers and whathaveyou are always there to "provide" assistance for your convenience.
The other reason that I can think of is practicality.
The four-way corners, pedestrian stop lights, etc., could not work in Manila where thousands upon thousands of commuters, pedestrians and vehicles abound. Imagine if every pedestrian used those buttons ion Manila, traffic would have been more congested if not chaotic The same thing with pedestrians crossing the street. If every car stopped when people crossed the street, traffic would not have moved anymore. That is why our stoplights are either controlled by traffic enforcer or goes on automatically.
Are Filipinos the worst drivers? I guess not. Filipinos in other countries know how to follow rules to the letter. They are law abiding. My conclusion, it is the system that is flawed.