Despite the so-called “progress” we have enjoyed over the past three decades, there is a sense of regression in our quality of life.
An Instagram post by a seasoned television reporter reminded me how good it was to drive back in the day. GMA 7’s Connie Sison posted on her social media account over the weekend how while driving herself home, with her driver as a passenger, she was reminded why she doesn’t take to the wheel anymore.
“Most (not all) motorists kasi naman are trying to get one over the others, neglecting traffic rules and etiquette. Ano ba?? Parang mauubusan ng daan,” she wrote. And she is right. Decent drivers nowadays will share her observations. And aside from the apparent lack of discipline and road etiquette, the conditions we drivers often operate in are not exactly conducive for driving anymore.
Let us say, for the sake of argument, that there are basically two kinds of drivers on the road today. One is the professional driver, or one who takes the wheel for a living. These may include bus and jeepney drivers, truck drivers, taxi and UV express drivers, even those working as transport network vehicle service or TNVS drivers.
The other is the casual driver, or someone who takes the wheel to get from point A to B. This may be anyone who needs to drive him or herself to work. Someone who has to run errands for a business. Maybe even someone who just finds leisure behind the wheel.
Whichever class you find yourself relating to, the problem nowadays is driving is not as fun as it used to be.
Like many seasoned motorists, I was fortunate enough to experience a time when driving was not so much of a chore. When I started to drive, roads were far less congested as they are now. There was less traffic, the roads looked wider and had more open space. Now, even the roads themselves are used as parking spaces.
Back in the day, traffic flow was smoother and faster. There was a time when I could go out late at night or really early in the morning and expect minimal cars on the road. A time when I could predict when I would arrive just by hitting the road at a time of day when there was little traffic. Now, cars are almost always on the road even into the wee hours of the morning.
A few years ago, I could easily head out to the highway for a “stroll” and have an opportunity to clear my mind. I could even head up to Baguio, have a sip of hot tsokolate de batirol and head down to Manila on the same half of the day and be fulfilled doing so. Now, it might take you an hour or two just to make it to the highway because of all the inner city traffic.
Life was simpler then. Driving a manual stick was normal and engaging while automatics were sluggish and drank way more fuel than I’d care to like. Speaking of fuel, it was way cheaper then than it is now. When I started driving in the early 1990s, a liter of gasoline cost P9. Now it’s P69 or maybe more with the impending increases this week.
I recall all these moments from not too long ago to remind myself of the time when we drove not because we had to, but because we wanted to. When we took our cars for leisure and recreation, not just for the mundane monotony of commuting to work, buying groceries, or taking kids to school.
I recall those times when we could plan for road trips while bringing along our special someone with hardly a worry of plotting the most efficient and fastest route. Yeah, because there was only one route most of the time. I recall those times in the late ‘80s when our family would drive to the mall, which was only three kilometers away from the house, to watch the last full show of a movie. And we would have time to spare getting there unlike now when traffic jams just outside the village would make you just want to stay home.
Despite the so-called “progress” we have enjoyed over the past three decades, there is a sense of regression in our quality of life. The act of driving, once a privileged right of passage looked up to by many, has become a mere tool in the accomplishment of tasks. The value of holding a driver’s license is now deemed worthless with the proliferation of counterfeit cards carried by unqualified drivers and riders who hardly give a damn about its importance and what it stands for.
The disappearance of once majestic structures that beautified our roads and the urban blight that came in their place are matched by the morale deterioration of our drivers and the loss of basic etiquette. It is therefore not surprising that many former drivers would now rather hire a driver of their own to relieve them of the stress and pressure now common on our roads. And why the millennials, and those that came after them, would rather book a private car through a mobile phone app, instead of yearn to own a car themselves.
Of course the growing realization of global warming and its ill effects on the environment has also taken its toll on driving. Cities around the world with established mass transport systems have citizens who opt to take the train or bus instead of driving. The cost of parking in central business districts has also become prohibitive, not to mention scarce at times. And upcoming laws mandating the availability of parking spaces prior to car purchases will surely affect the sales of cars in congested cities in the years to come.
The age of car-centric mobility might just be starting to end. Despite the continuing need for private vehicles to conveniently transport people in comfort and safety, the reality is that heavy traffic, inadequate infrastructure, and an undisciplined driving public are making every drive not worth the time and resources needed to make them happen.
But there will always be those who see owning and driving their own car as an invaluable part of the journey of life. Like their elders, they see cars as symbols of success and driving as an essential skill to move ahead in life.
They are those who just see the fulfillment in being behind the wheel. Those who drive for the sheer pleasure of it. And they are the ones car companies are on the lookout for. If you are one of those old souls who still loves to drive any chance you get, do not lose hope. There is still the wide countryside to explore and appreciate on four wheels. Let us continue to keep the passion and love for driving alive.