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How often have we heard the phrase, “Traffic laws are mere suggestions” in this country? Indeed, what was once a joke seems to have become the norm nowadays. This despite the valiant and untiring efforts of the Land Transportation Authority, the Metro Manila Development Authority, its traffic enforcers, even the LGUs to reign in traffic law violators.
And with new bike lanes now set-up along EDSA,  motorists, PUV drivers and motorcycle riders most especially, will have to contend with learning a new set of regulations again. On top of the multitude of other traffic rules many do not follow already. If you have been following MMDA traffic chief, Bong Nebrija’s Facebook account, you can see how frustrating it is for him to, day in and day out, lecture and apprehend motorists for violating even the simplest of traffic regulations. I feel for the guy. He has to contend with some of the most inane excuses from traffic law violators who he already caught red-handed in the first place.
He and the MMDA have been accused of being anti-poor for apprehending working class folk who are already struggling with the daily grind. And on the other end of the argument, they also get flak for letting violators be with only a lecture and warning instead of issuing them traffic citation tickets. But one thing is sure, there is no shortage of traffic law violators. It is as if the LTO wantonly issued driver’s licenses even to those who did not deserve them.
And here lies Nebrija’s problem really. He can stand along EDSA 24/7 and he will never run out of apprehensions. But until the government addresses the root cause of the problem, progress will never be achieved.
If you have been driving for a while, you may have noticed how traffic laws are enforced on our roads – seasonal, arbitrary and at times illogical. Public sentiment seems to point to the traffic enforcers’ lack of training, education and comprehension. That is why some motorists resort to scare tactics and name dropping to avoid apprehension. But in truth, if drivers or riders would only take to heart the rules of the road and obey them out of their own volition, then we would not be needing traffic rule enforcers to begin with.
Then there are the laws themselves. Many are out of touch with reality with penalties that are ridiculously low having been crafted more than 50 years ago. And while the LTO and other executive agencies have been reinterpreting these laws for the modern times, the fact remains that many provisions are no longer practical because of the advent of modern technology.
As what we have been calling for in this column for a year now, fixing our traffic problem does not solely rely on the government agencies tasked to enforce them. But a big brunt of the work should be tackled by the agencies concerned. From doing their bit to ensure that drivers’ licenses are issued only to competent motorists who know the prevailing road rules by heart, to ensuring that these rules are enforced fairly and consistently.
If only traffic education can begin in the elementary grades. If only high schoolers were to be required to do X number of hours of traffic-oriented community service. Educating the youth about their role as pedestrians and motorists early should help inculcate the values and discipline needed to curb the ongoing downward spiral of our motoring culture.
And for those traffic law recidivists who are still plying the roads, we can only hope that all driver’s licenses be rescinded and every motorist undergoes a rigid examination to weed out the undeserving. Driving is a privilege granted by the state, and not a right by the individual. So it should be within the state’s powers to make sure every license holder is worthy to begin with. Tough times call for tough measures.
The lack of information also contributes to the cluelessness of some motorists. A massive multimedia information campaign focusing on transforming the Filipino motoring psyche is needed to address this. The campaign should focus on the right way to behave while on the road. Also, the basic traffic rules to follow, explained in layman’s terms, along with promoting positive values such as generosity, sharing of space, kindness, and helpfulness on the road should be highlighted. The basic tenets of communication such as repetition, impactful messaging, choice of appropriate channels, and a long timeline with measurable targets should be observed if change for the better is expected.
And finally, something motorists have been clamoring for, and what many have expected to happen in the Duterte administration – the strict 24/7 enforcement of traffic rules. One of the reasons President Duterte was elected to the highest office of the land was the public’s yearning for discipline to once again prevail. There were dreamers who thought under this president and his Disiplina Duterte tagline, Metro Manila would become like fabled Davao – clean, organized, law-abiding.
Instead, after almost 5 years, traffic is still a mess, drivers and riders still opt to violate laws if only to get ahead of other motorists. Sadly, the “Kung makakalusot, lumusot” mentality is still prevalent among the motoring public. Again, just ask Bong Nebrija.
So let us stop romanticizing the Filipino. We violate laws because no one is enforcing them. On the road, we behave like deprived and underfed creatures, hungry to be ahead of everyone else to be fed first, and most. The Dutertes and Nebrijas will come and go, but in the end it is us who will have to live on with what we have. Unless we ourselves are willing to change for the better, we should not demand others to do so. 

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