Caught (up) in traffic

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Passing the blame for our traffic mess

November 2011


We like to bash and criticize public transport drivers for their behavior when we only need to look in the mirror to see who is part of the traffic problem in this country. A lot of private car drivers here and elsewhere in the country tend to attribute traffic congestion to buses, jeepneys, AUVs and taxis while practically washing their hands off the congestion and reckless driving habits that we see everyday along Philippine highways and streets. Many tend to think that only PUV drivers are to blame for our traffic mess when in reality and data-wise there are surely more private traffic on our roads compared with public. Such statistics including mode shares for both vehicular and person trips along major corridors in Metro Manila I will share in another post.

I drive from my home to the office and back almost everyday and I have observed driving behavior for much of my life including the times when I’m in cities in other countries. PUV drivers to me are more predictable than private car drivers in this country. In fact, we can know for sure that PUV drivers will weave their vehicles in traffic and we will always brace ourselves for the aggressive driving every time we encounter PUVs. Such errant behavior, of course, could have been addressed by a stricter and more reliable licensing system for drivers. But that’s another story altogether that’s worth an entire article.

Meanwhile, I share the observation of one friend that many SUV or high-end vehicle drivers “tend to drive like outlaws.” I had articulated in an interview before that many young drivers (and older ones as well) tend to imagine themselves as race car drivers – and proceed by trying to out-speed and/or out-maneuver other drivers the way stuntmen do in the movies. This you can observe whether along a congested street or a free flowing expressway. Evidence to this includes all the road crashes involving private vehicles (including motorcycles) that would certainly out-number those involving PUVs. One thing not going for the PUVsm, however, is that they happen to carry more passengers and therefore more responsibility as a requirement of their being issued franchises. Another proof to irresponsible behavior are postings of claims and photos on social media showing speedometers exceeding speed limits. And yes, there are those who routinely and consciously violate speed limits along expressways for them to be captured by speed cameras. The shots are then used as bragging rights attesting to the driver reaching a certain speed with his/her vehicle.

This morning, I almost got sideswiped by a car who cut my path to make an abrupt right turn to enter the gate of a major private university. I thought I had a clear path to change lanes as I estimated a good distance from the same vehicle who was trailing me on the other lane. Instead, the vehicle accelerated and with horns blaring asserted his right to the lane. I had to use my defensive driving skills to avert a collision. Seconds later, he was blocking my path as he made a right turn at the university’s gate. I could only shake my head in frustration with what happened while an MMDA enforcer looked helplessly as a witness to the incident. A few minutes later, a couple of SUVs coming from a posh subdivision along Katipunan cut our path to make an illegal left turn at a U-turn slot. Vehicles from this subdivision do so regularly and with impunity as if their passengers were more blessed and more important persons than the rest using this major highway.

The examples above are just some of what we usually encounter everyday while traveling or during our regular commutes. These are certainly being caught on video by the MMDA cameras spread out and observing traffic along major roads in Metro Manila. These same drivers might be the first to throw the proverbial stone to their fellow drivers whom they have judged to have committed sins of recklessness when the truth is that they themselves are guilty and only have to look in the mirror to see for themselves who are really to blame for our dangerous and congested roads. Truly, what’s wrong with traffic in this country may not necessarily be with the way we manage traffic or enforce rules and regulations. It might just be the nut behind the wheel that’s defective, after all.

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