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What do Hidilyn Diaz, Carlo Paalam, Nesthy Petecio and all have in common? Aside from the fact that they brought honor to the country for winning  a gold and two silver medals  respectively in the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics, they also share that peculiar title of being first time car owners. 
Because of their stellar performance on the world stage, all three winning athletes were given a brand new car to add to their monetary haul. By virtue of winning the first Olympic gold of the country, weightlifter Diaz was actually given two vehicles, a top-of-the-line Kia Stonic 1.4 EX from Kia Philippines and Ayala Corporation; and a 13-seater Foton Transvan from Foton Motor Philippines. 
United Asia Auto Automotive Group, Inc., through its brands Foton and Chery, similarly gifted silver medalist boxer Carlo Paalam with a 13-seater Foton Gratour Multi-Purpose Vehicle. While Nesty Petecio, who also took silver in her featherweight title bid,  received a brand new Chery Tiggo2 subcompact crossover for her Olympic exploits.  
To complicate matters just a bit more, Diaz and Paalam also received motorcycles as rewards for their conquests. Suzuki Philippines turned over a Suzuki Skydrive Sport scooter to Diaz. While Yamaha Philippines and Wheeltek Motor Sales made Paalam’s riding dreams come true by giving him a Yamaha YZF-R6. 
There is just one slight snag, however. None of them know how to drive. Among the three Olympic medalists, only Carlo already has a driver’s license for his sport bike. And with a less than ideal motoring culture facing them as they begin their car ownership journey, it is our hope that the same grit and mental fortitude they showed in competition will be enough to strengthen their resolve behind the wheel, or even the handlebar.
As many realize late in the game, vehicle ownership in the Philippines is not just about a right of passage. Neither is it just about driving off into the sunset by merely operating a machine to get from point A to B. It is definitely more than the romanticized symbol of one’s independence and financial achievements that many of us have been led to believe. 
Vehicle ownership revolves around being ready for the obligations involved in having, owning and caring for a car. It is also about practicing  the proper behavior that ensures one’s safety, along with others, on the road. In short, it is all about responsibility. 
For many new car owners, cultivating a responsible mindset is oftentimes the least of their priorities. Paying for the vehicle’s monthly dues seems to be the primary concern. Even ensuring the proper maintenance of the vehicle takes the backburner at times as newbie motorists would rather spend on trinkets and mods to personalize their rides. 
In order to avoid the pitfalls of naive motor vehicle ownership, we came up with a short checklist to tick off for new car and motorcycle owners who are taking their first steps as  motorists. The following is unsolicited advice to new vehicle owners, present company of  Olympic heroes included, in order for them to not only enjoy their rides to the fullest,  but to do so responsibly.

Know your rides inside and out

Owning a motor vehicle also means knowing how it works. Better still is knowing how to keep it in its optimum condition. Newbie motorists should take some time to read the Owner’s Manual to know how to operate the various features of their rides. Read all the way up to the part where it shows the meaning of the different warning lamps that might flash at an inopportune time. That way, you will not get startled when they do.
Read through the servicing section too. Here you will see the preventive maintenance schedule of the vehicle. Knowing what parts will be inspected or replaced, and when, will let you keep  tabs on the condition of the vehicle throughout its service life. Also, it saves you from paying more than you have to during servicing.
While various car brands would like to reassure you with an almost hassle free ownership experience, the fact of the matter is, like an athlete’s body, cars and motorcycles need regular maintenance and proper and timely care for them to operate at their best. 

Enroll in an LTO-accredited driving school

Now that the Land Transportation Office is requiring at least 15 hours spent taking a Theoretical Driving Course, and another 8 hours in a Practical Driving Course, it is hoped that future drivers and riders, along with our new age sporting heroes, will have a better appreciation for road rules. 
Sharing the road with other motorists involves knowing the proper behavior and positioning of one’s vehicle in relation to others. Traffic lights and signs, along with  lane markings are all instructions that help avert chaos on the streets. Knowledge about these road conventions and norms also contribute to everyone’s safety on the road. 

Defensive driving is the key

Having situational awareness is essential to ensuring safety on the road. Knowing where other vehicles are in relation to your own allows you to plan  an “escape route” just in case an incident happens. Concentrating on the task at hand, whether driving or riding, is essential to a safe and uneventful journey. As much as possible, avoid getting involved in a compromising position on the road. Always give enough space to other cars. And always think twice before succumbing to the temptation of road rage. 
Even when other motorists are wrong, there is really no point in proclaiming one is right. In the same way our medalists and athletes get into the zone and shut out distractions when competing, newbie motorists should also learn to reign in their temper and just focus on getting to their destinations safely. Remember, we motorists are responsible not only for our own  safety, but also for all those with and around us on the road.

Driving is a privilege, not a right

So it all starts with the right attitude. Accepting the fact that one’s driver’s license is just that, a temporary permit that allows you to operate a motor vehicle and share space on the road with other motorists, is the basic mindset every driver or rider should possess. 
The road we are travelling on does not belong to us. It is all shared space. And our ability to drive can be taken away if we display dangerous, unsafe, and unruly behavior on the road that can endanger others. This also means one has to follow the rules of the roads to preserve order and create a safe environment.
While it may be easier for our medalists to just hire a driver to take them and their families around, being a responsible car owner will always bring with it obligations one cannot just ignore. We hope the list above helps newbie motorists such as Haidilyn, Carlo and Nesthy, along with the thousands of other new car and motorcycle owners, to develop into mature motorists – a commodity our motoring culture sorely needs.
In the same way our athletes valued the discipline required to master their sport, let us also acknowledge that learning and practicing the proper way to drive and ride, as well as being responsible, law-abiding motorists, is paramount to success no matter what road we take. Respect begets respect.

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