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We Will Never Solve Our Traffic Woes Until We Learn How To Drive


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┬áproper way to drive.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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  1. Then there’s the fact that there are more people in New York than Metro Manila while having roughly similar sizes. But they do get by. No worries, though. As the peso continues to tank because of Duterte Harry oil will be out of reach for the average driver in no time. This is a most glorious vision!

    1. There are much more people in Metro Manila then New York City (4.8 vs 12 million). Now if you’re discussing New York state, then yes, but that’s not an effective barometer as aside from NYC, the population is dispersed thought the rest of the state, while Metro Manila is saturated throughout. Drivers in the NYC aren’t much more disciplined either — but the fact that we have viable mass transit (the majority of New Yorkers use the subways) or most of the city is walkable proximity, does alleviate traffic to a generous extent. But I agree, traffic in Metro Manila is disheartening to say the least — coming back during the holidays always breaks my spirit a little every year when I’m faced with the daily commute.

  2. ang mahirap kasi pag nasa unahan ka bubusinahan ka ng bubusinahan kapag nakita na go signal na,akala yong kaming nasa unahan ang dahilan ng trapik. we follow the common sense rule na kapag puno kyong pupuntahan mo wag ka na muna tumuloy kahit go signal kasi mablock ang intersection, but the car behind you keep on blowing their horn. sometimes bumaba pa at galit pa bakit di ako umalis.

    1. Korek ka jan, arnel guerra. Daming tanga at init ulo sa Maynila na dapat walang lisensiya. Kasama na dun yung mga jeep, taxi, at tricycle drayber.

      1. Yes, thats the problem. Walang disiplina or walang alam sa batas trapiko. Nakakainit ng ulo na ikaw sumusunod sa batas, ginagawa kang tanga. Parang sarap bilhan ng megaphone saka mo tarakan para rinig nga lahat sa lugar

  3. In Singapore, the ‘red’ light stays for maybe 5 seconds before giving the ‘green’ sign.
    In Manila, there are even ‘green’ lights for cars who will turn and ‘green’ for passengers who will cross at the same time.

  4. I always say that in Tagalog. Maraming tsuper ang marunong lang magpatakbo ng sasakyan at hindi marunong magmaneho. In my younger years, I worked at a private company with maintenance contract with TEC and I had seen that problem. And that problem is still in existence as of today. Maraming driver ang walang disiplina at hindi marunong gumalang sa traffic rules, regulations and ethics. YES, dinagdagan ko ng ethics kasi yan din ang nakikita kong kulang sa karamihan ng mga drivers. Walang ethiquette.

  5. Not just the way we drive, but also the way roads are made, and the finicky minds of the traffic managers!!! Roads – posts in the middle of EDSA, lanes on EDSA SUDDENLY disappearing that you need to merge or “swerve” )and get apprehended). Finicky minds – like almost daily barriers move, they are open, then closed the afernoon or the next day…always a surprise. Lack of consistency!

  6. Its not restricted to driving, proper queueing in lrt/mrt stations, staying on the right side of the escalator/stairs if you are not in a hurry.. These are simple things that civilized/successful nations do but us filipinos always feel that we are more important than the person beside us and courtesy flies out the window. The sad part is that when we go abroad, its either we obey these simple rules (w/c i say wtf, why cant you do it at our country) or they carry it over (ashamed because we show everyone else who filipinos are).

  7. The Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Phils.,Inc. (CAMPI) projects that at least 370,00 motorized vehicles will be sold by the end of the year. That is an average of 31,000 vehicles being sold monthly in the Philippines and with a substantial number of these going into the streets of Metro Manila. This figure does not include your backyard assembler and grey market Subic and CEZA importer. Couple this with the fact that FIlipinos hold on to the used vehicles like their life depended on it.

    Studies on vehicle ownership patterns in the Phils, show that a vehicle has an average lifespan of 20 years before being permanently retired from the roads. Just take a look at how popular the 2nd hand market at and you will have an idea.

    Given this scenario, even the best and most disciplined drivers in the world will not be able to cope with the gridlock due to the sheer number of vehicles in the roads. Not even a tenfold increase in the road network and more efficient public transport will do the trick. We are already in crisis and have reached the tipping point. The only way would be to drastically decongest Metro Manila. Open up alternative Government and Business center in other parts of the country. There is no other way

  8. We also have to get rid of the boundary system, which creates a huge incentive to bad driving among public utility drivers. If bus crews were on salaries they would no longer have to race to the nearest intersection and then sit there blocking traffic until they have enough passengers to make it worth racing to the next intersection.

  9. If only the Rich people didn’t asked for the July 4, 1946 Independence, our Country would be Guam, Puerto Rico and part of the Virgin Islands. Because of GREED OF THE RICH, THEY HAD THEIR PLANS, SO THE U.S. WON’T TAKE THEIR LANDS! What happened to the people born BEFORE JULY 4, 1946? THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE AMERICAN CITIZENS!

    There won’t be such traffic because my Friends everybody will have their cars, jobs in offices and other establishments. None of our Jeepneys. THINK ABOUT IT! TOO LATE?


  11. You may build skyways, express ways, space ways……will not help not even a bit. You may have all kinds of “bans” in all roads, you will just ban the sanity of the citizens.
    You do not need roads. You need a government to enforce the law. I read that Filipinos do not know how to drive respect the other motorists etc. Might be a bit true. Mostly Filipinos do not have any regard for the law of the country they live in. A few pesos and we get away. Every government in this country condemns this practice officially and blesses it in every social aspect. Go to Los Angeles, Filipinos drive everywhere same as the americans and every one else there just because there is a law that they cannot get away from. That applies all over the world where Filipinos live and drive. The very same person as soon as he gets behind the wheel in Philippines he adopts immediately in the local standards. So the problem is not the Filipino driver but the driving culture officially honored from the country. Philippines is considered a “poor third world” country. Really? Under which standards? Under the amount of population and the average income per head. If we would look on natural resources, exports etc etc is not a poor country, where this wealth goes is another story. I will not extend that since will take me out of topic. In this country the what is called public transportation is wrong expression, The correct one is private transportation companies which cater the public. Where is the difference, that these companies they care more on profit than providing service to people. People will use their means of transporting them since there is nothing else available. And what these “means” are? The worlds disgrace called jeepney, which instead or eradicating them they made them same as a national symbol. The locally made “buses” from second hand chassis of trucks and engines, tricycles, pedicycles anything with cycles. In short whatever has wheels is getting license plates, a “fat” franchise fee, a driver working for peanuts on commission of the fares and they all try their best to feed their families by racing versus time and amount of passengers. The traffic they cause, the dangers they pose…when your kids are hungry home this is the last you will think. But again I might get out of the topic. All these “public transportation” means, not excluding the taxis, grab uber and any other scheme, will stop to get or leave passengers anywhere anyhow, they will turn and drive the same as if they are racing because the do are racing for their own living. Now add up the private vehicle drivers, which as well allowed and license plates for whatever has wheels, and these drivers adopt the above mentioned drivers style on the road, under the logic in the jungle the strongest or faster survives, and you get the beautiful Philippines traffic chaos.
    They say (do not ask who, find it your self) that the reason all these wheeled things existance is because it is a poor country, while the owners of these companies are filthy rich….just think a bit!! You were importing all the junked cars from other countries repairing them and driving them, every decent Filipino had to have a pajero…right handed transformed to left and a rosary to protect them. This stopped, suddenly new cars popped up everywhere. From the poor citizens…how much more if you ban and strictly regulate all these forms of wheeled “public transportation”. Now add up some strict enforcement of laws and suddenly you will consider rush hour the 5 min wait at the most congested spot of the city, without building not even one single road.

  12. I believe that there are several factors that affect traffic flow in the Philippines. Some of these are the following:

    1. Issuance of Driver’s License, several years ago there was a news item where a blind person was able to get license. If only the gov’t strictly imposes the driving tests then only qualified drivers will get licensed. I remember when I used to work for a big company in Manila, the driving tests in order to be authorized to use Company vehicle is a lot harder than getting a drivers license!
    2. Proper Traffic enforcement, problem is either the traffic enforcer makes money rather than enforcing traffic laws or the driver boasting a calling card from one high ranking official to evade a traffic citation ticket.
    3. Too many vehicles on the road. In some countries, you can not just buy a vehicle. In Singapore there is a quota system that limits the number of vehicle on the road, while in Japan you must have a parking space before you can own a vehicle. The gov’t should make a study on a feasible way to limit vehicles on the road.
    4. Too narrow roads or lack of roads. This is a problem on land development. Gov’t approves subdivisions or commercial properties with out planning for increase of vehicle or for road access/expansions. Also, one of the problem is most commercial and gov’t offices, establishments, factories, etc. are situated in Metro Manila. Example, if Clark airport in Angeles Pampanga is expanded and developed into a world class airport, then airlines encouraged to add more flights then people arriving from abroad that lives in the northern part of Luzon won’t have to travel all the way to NAIA. if big companies could be persuaded to move to nearby provinces it would help ease traffic in metro manila and make that province more prosperous.
    5. Public transport must be improved. In congested cities in US, Europe, Japan, Australia, Singapore, the public transits are widely used because aside from traffic it is also difficult to find parking space. While it is good that there are light rails in Metro Manila, regular trains going outside MM should be improved so commuters from province won’t have to bring their cars to Manila.
    6. Traffic system should be computerized so light changes would be in sync. Sensors as well as traffic cameras should be installed on road intersections so computers can automatically adjust the timings. And control should be centralized and monitored by trained personnel so they can also manually adjust the flow in case of sudden congestion or accidents. But in order to be effective, drivers must obey road regulations. [Example, if left turning drivers would swerve from right lanes then the computer won’t sense them.] So Driver discipline is a key factor here.

    These are just some factors that comes to mind but I am sure there are a lot more. The solution to the traffic congestion in the Philippines is quite complex. There is no single solution to this traffic problem.

    1. In roundabouts, the cars inside the roundabout have the right of way, ang papasok should yield, pero dito sa pinas di yan alam.

  13. to be honest…i feel you. ayan na ayan din ang napansin ko kahit noong baguhan palang ako mag drive and that was the 90’s. Gaya nang lagi kong sinasabi….hindi porket marunong kana magpaandar ng sasakyan eh marunong kana mag drive. There are plenty more behind it not just driving, gaya ng courtesy, laws, right of way, traffic signs, even traffic paints. And ang patutsada kong ito ay particular sa mga public utility PROFESSIONAL drivers. Ni hindi nga sila marunong sa mga traffic signs tapos considered pa silang professional eh mas madudunong pa yung mga NON-PROFESSIONALS.

  14. One Solution only and everything shall follow: The standards for being a traffic enforcer should absolutely be higher. Meaning, they should undergo special training and pass a high standard test to qualify. Of course they should be paid high enough for it to be attractive to people with good breeding! With that, all drivers will soon realize that traffic rules should be respected and followed, otherwise be dearly fined. They’d know that these elite enforcers cannot be bribed and of a higher intellect, so people would give them due respect. These intellectual enforcers can also be part in giving recommendations and solutions that helps solve the present problems, since they are the thinking kind, who can analyze a situation and can even fix it right then and there. Ang daming lokolokong drivers in manila with different statures, pag pasok sa subic, sunod sa traffic. Sus anuyun?

  15. Education and discipline, is the key, the first to be educated should be the Motorcycle riders, they have their own lane and yet they squeeze every nook and cranny of every road. Besides, they always like to take the blind side always. Which tends to lead into mishaps. Also man, these guys have to respect pedestrian lanes. Its there for pedestrian and not to be used to inch your way faster to your destination. 2nd these freaking PUVs, buses, jeepneys, UV express, why do you drop off and pick up passengers in the middle of the road? And why would you guys hog the lane just to squeeze in more people. And Jeepney drivers, for petes sake one side can only fit 9 people, why do you try to squeeze in 11.

    Taxi drivers, why do you clog terminal such as EDSA Cubao, those are not Taxi terminals. Buses, come on man, I know that you have quotas but why do you hog the lane and Squeeze in 100 people in a 56 seater bus?

    There are a couple of drastic measures that I could think of to speed alleviate the traffic flow situation in Metro Manila.

    1. Ban motorcycles in major thoroughfares like EDSA, Commonwealth and C5 ( why…these guys should be using side streets and are only inviting harm if they ply through these roads.
    2. STRICT, CONSISTENT, and LONGTERM implementation of current traffic rules. Why, HPG and MMDA implements stuff and forget about them a 1 week later.
    3. Remove the barriers in EDSA, they do not do anything but use up real estate.
    4.PROHIBIT SWERVING in EDSA and MAJOR thorough ways. I know that SWERVING is not a violation, Imaging buses swerving and weaving along EDSA,. Its absolutely obstruction.
    5. Remove Bus terminals along EDSA. CUBAO and Pasay terminal along EDSA must go. These guys do nose in nose out in EDSA, which is actually prohibited.
    6.Install MORE CCTVs in major thorough fares to capture more violators.
    7. Implement three strike rules ( 3 violations, driver has to attend Seminar ), another 3 strike. License will be revoked. Similar to Chinese implementations.
    8. Phase out old PUVs, man I can still see buses that belch smoke and is rust all over the place that it invites stalling and probably accidents.
    9. NO PARKING/GARAGE NO PLATE or something like what is currently being brewed but will never come into existence.
    10. Fasters MMDA response to roadside incidents. Although they are faster than they were, they need to improve to unclog EDSA in wink due to incidents,vehicle stalls.
    11. GIVE THE DAMN EMERGENCY POWERS TO DUTERTE ALREADY. He has the WILL POWER that no previous president ever had.
    12. Enhance traffic Schemes, odd even does not work anymore. Think somewhere along the lines of COLORS.
    13. LARGE TRUCKS should not enter the Metro anymore, they can use EXPRESSWAYS. Should they need to drop off stuff, they should do so in warehouses outside Metro Manila and let close VAN ply the roads. This should ease up C5 and declog Cubao, Commonwealth, Ortigas, Manila and Pasay which should have a domino effect in the traffic flow in EDSA.
    14. BAN MALLS from HOLDING SALES on WEEKDAYS. When SM Malls have sales, expect heavy traffic.
    15. Implement car and transportation Taxes. Those who commute should have tax discounts.
    16. Sidewalk vendors should be cleared off the streets and sidewalks. I know that this is their livelihood. Man, they do not even pay taxes and they block our sidewalks and roads. They must go and have a specific place for them to vend..
    17. Metro Drainage needs to improve. Every time it rains expect heavy traffic.
    18. ALLOW PEOPLE to WORK from HOME, there are PEZA laws that do not allow people who have mobile work to work at home. This saves companies real estate cost and makes less people on the roads commuting to and from work.
    19. Adjust the working hours, 4 days by 11 hours will let people off the roads.
    20. Implement faster and cheaper internet – Why is this here ? If you have cheap and fast Internet, people can actually afford to work from home.
    21. De congest the metro by giving better incentives to companies who can put up infrastructure in the suburbs. Lets move people of Metro Manila instead of inviting more people to live in Metro Manila.
    22. Get rid of informal settlers in waterways, they are a hazard to themselves and the public. Not only is it dangerous to live in these scenarios, they also contribute to flooding.
    23. BAN bus companies that enforce quotas, these drivers should have fix salaries and not try to outdo each other just to meet quota.
    24. Implement stricter rules on Taxi Companies. A lot of accidents are caused by taxi drivers who try to make ends meet. Taxi boundaries should be regulated. This will easy up pressure on the taxi driver to meet boundary quota and avoid passengers. Also these guys should be on salary basis and not boundary.

    By the way, I ply an 19 Kilometer 1 way route everyday, going through Makati to SM North. I don’t take the MRT anymore as I have had several mishaps riding them. Plus the line is Hellish. Those I am commuting 5-8 hours a day. Although I have had 10. Yeah, I should get myself a sideline that allows me to get paid while commuting.

  16. I agree with your sentiment, sir John. The government should step up because a “typical” Juan doesn’t really have road courtesy or logic. That intersection in Edsa could easily make 5,000 pesos in penalties per minute because of erring drivers, if we consider the violation as reckless driving – ignoring traffic signs. If they did penalize those driver 3.6 million in 12 hours? Not bad for 1 intersection.

  17. i think people in manila just become selfish when they’re on the road, they don’t let anyone pass through whatever there are already traffic in front of them, they will move their car to block all the road and wait for the flow to move, they don’t give a shit about others.

    and I also realize one thing, when you try to change your line, normally we use turn signal, but when most of the driver see your signal they will accelerate immediately just don’t want you to get in front of them, there are too many selfish drivers in the Philippine.

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