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Day in and day out, we drive to our places of work, to meetings, to malls, markets, and recreational facilities. It has become a routine that needs to be done in order to earn a living and get things done. And for those who feel down from the daily grind of the workweek, driving is a welcome stress release. A brief but necessary activity to get away from it all. 

Either way, the happiness driving as an activity delivers has been shown to benefit one’s emotional, mental and physical health. That is, until you begin sharing the road with the less educated while experiencing the decrepit state of infrastructure our roads have become.  

One does not need to look far to see the many wrongs that sap the joy away from driving. Each and every day, we are faced with near chaos scenarios that bring us to the brink of road rage. Surely, if there were no consequences to losing one’s temper while driving, our streets will be a mess of epic proportions. And our safety will most likely be on the line. 

Perhaps a cursory review of prevalent daily driving scenes can illustrate the point better.

Last-minute lane cutting

When was the last time you queued up in a lane that led straight to the flyover some hundreds of meters away only to be snuck up from the right lane by another car that wanted to squeeze into the line just as you were approaching  the foot of the bridge?  You can still remember it vividly, yes? In fact, it happens so often that it has become accepted behavior for many. 

It is infuriating when supposedly educated, driving license holders can find the gall to cut a queue. These people even believe they should be let in, or in local vernacular, “mapagbigyan” so that traffic will flow smoother. Newsflash! There will be less traffic if these monsters  line up properly from the back because every time a car changes lanes, it makes other drivers slow down to accommodate them. 

The hardheaded counterflower

Going against the direction of traffic is wrong on so many levels. Not only does it put others who do not expect a vehicle to suddenly head straight for them at risk, it also shows wanton disregard for the basic laws that govern road use.  

What makes matters worse, is oftentimes, there is no remorse from the counterflowing driver. Head-on face-offs where the driver on the wrong insists on his course despite being blocked by the driver on the right lane have become all too common. Road rage ensues and what follows next can become an ugly encounter if the authorities are not in place to diffuse the situation. Right now, I bet you can almost feel your blood boil just thinking about it. 

The bottomline is, what is right is right. What is wrong, is wrong. If only every motorist would abide by this belief, driving would be a more enjoyable and relaxing experience.

Not using signal lights

Turning indicators, or signal lights as we fondly call them, are there for a reason. They are used to communicate to other drivers one’s intention to change lanes. In other countries where the driving code is observed, once  a car ahead of you turns on its signal lights, you are obliged to slow down and let the car in front enter the lane. 

However, for many, they just do not care if the car is changing lanes. The predominant mentality is, “I am on my lane, this is mine. I go first.” And this is where the problem lies. By insisting on not letting the car ahead enter the lane, both vehicles end up slowing down traffic for the cars behind them. Furthermore, tempers flare as both drivers jostle for position in the lane. 

Common courtesy on the road makes driving less stressful. Just don’t  be like those lane-cutters though who abuse the kindness of fellow motorists.

Playing chicken with pedestrians

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users. According to the 2019 Metro Manila Accident Reporting and Analysis System report (MMARAS), 45.96% of all road fatalities in the NCR last year involved pedestrians. These were people who were just crossing the street, or were standing at a corner. At the wrong place, at the wrong time. 

It is unfortunate that the common practice in our country today  is to not stop for pedestrians crossing city streets. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, in other civilized countries, drivers are obligated to stop for pedestrians using the crosswalk. And pedestrians themselves  use the crosswalk religiously to get to the other side of the street while also using the sidewalk to traverse the length of the road. That is something that has yet to become common practice here.

Drivers and pedestrians alike need to abide by the rules of the road if only to ensure mutual safety and a harmonious coexistence.

Straddling lanes

How many times have we heard that lanes are mere suggestions on where  cars should be on the road? Well, they actually play a real important role. 

In the pursuit of order on the road, the proper use of lane markings should be observed. Cars should be inside the painted  lane demarcations, not on top of them and blocking two cars behind from moving forward. But it’s not always the drivers’ fault.

Along EDSA for example, it doesn’t help that with the introduction of new road usage schemes  such as the new median bus lane, the bicycle lanes and the wandering motorcycle lanes, drivers have gotten confused on where to place their cars on the road. The new bus lane’s concrete barriers have eaten into the adjoining lane. The bicycle lanes have occupied half of the outer lanes. And all the lane markings left between them were not modified to accommodate the width of private vehicles. 

Here is one case scenario where the government should do things right if it expects motorists to do what is right.

Roadworks during the rainy season

What is more preposterous  than the government undertaking flood control and road repair projects during the rainy season? 

For decades, motorists have suffered through traffic caused by road diggings made when the rains have set-in. Which begs the following questions: Why can’t the government and its contractors do all the maintenance work during summertime, when there are less vehicles on the road? Why can’t they plan for regular maintenance instead of waiting for roads to deteriorate to a point that they are impassable? And why can’t road maintenance be a recurring budget item instead of a special project and allocation that is sponsored by a senator, a congressman, a governor or a mayor?

Well, your guess is as good as mine. 

Clearly, we have a long way to go when it comes to achieving proper driving decorum,  road safety and accessibility – all key factors that contribute to delivering joy and fulfillment  in every drive. 

For the road user, education and discipline are the keys to improving the quality of the daily commute and having a satisfying drive.  For the government, the planning and adoption of a comprehensive road use plan that puts the welfare of the people as a priority will transform the motoring experience for the better. Both transformations need to happen for things to improve for the better.

Working together towards a common, and oftentimes higher, goal works wonders in any situation. Let us be hopeful that we can all finally drive towards the same direction together  so that we can savor the bliss that driving and motoring can offer.

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