Traffic – a never-ending problem for people who live in Manila, Cebu or any other urban area in the Philippines. Anybody who has to travel to Ortigas, Makati or even Quezon City everyday to get to work knows this all too well. Despite being unusually lucky of being able to work from home, I still have to sit in my car for hours on end trying to cover tech events, and it gets worse each time I go out.
Today was uncharacteristically bad. I left my home in Rizal at 9:30, expecting to arrive in BGC before 11, or at the very least, at 11:30. But apparently I was too naive in my estimate, as I arrived, angry at my very existence, at 12:30 in the afternoon. That’s three hours to traverse roughly 20 kilometers, and that’s simply mind-boggingly bad.
While I was sitting in traffic though, I came to a realization – no amount of new roads or laws would ever, ever fix the traffic problems in the Philippines. Why? Because a big majority of Filipino drivers have no idea how to drive.
Let’s get this straight right now – being able to successfully navigate using a motor vehicle from point a to point b without colliding into anything isn’t driving. That only proves that you know how to operate a car. You know how to work a gas, a clutch, and a steering wheel in combination to get to a certain destination. Knowing how to drive is more than that – it’s not just about knowing the rules of the road, it’s also knowing road courtesy.
Here’s a classic example: the intersection at EDSA Kamuning. That’s one of the biggest traffic pain points for people in Quezon City for a simple reason, namely, buses and cars blocking the huge intersection that clearly has a box with a cross on it. For people who don’t know what that means, it means keep the intersection clear. It makes sense – you don’t want traffic blocking that particular strip of road. Common sense dictates that even if your light says go, if you don’t have anywhere to go, you stay put to avoid blocking the intersection and letting other cars pass.
But common sense isn’t so common, since buses and private vehicles block that intersection all the time. And there’s no point to it – there’s nowhere to go. It’s like everybody’s hypnotized by that green light, and shove their vehicles onto that space blindly, which in turn, blocks everybody trying to get across. Genius move, right there.
It happens everywhere too – people instantly lock intersections because they think it’s their god given right to move forward once the light turns green, EVEN IF THEY DO NOT HAVE ANYWHERE TO GO. It’s insane. And most of the time they’re only making things worse since they’re now causing even more traffic down the road.
The government needs to teach people the difference between actually driving and just knowing how to operate a motor vehicle. Motorist education goes a long way – the LTO shouldn’t just give licenses to drivers willy nilly, and needs to implement a stricter way to give licenses to drivers. Existing drivers too, should be given refresher courses on both road courtesy and road discipline to teach them what responsible driving means. No amount of new roads, laws or infrastructure will EVER solve our traffic problem if we don’t address the root cause of it first: lack of discpline and knowing the proper way to drive.