Thirty-seven years is a long time. Back in 1985, there wasn’t much traffic along EDSA, the MRT-3 wasn’t around yet, there were no flyovers, cars were smaller, and Heart Evangelista, Anne Curtis, and Solenn Heussaff had just entered the world.
It was a tumultuous year as protests against a dictator grew to a crescendo forcing him to call for snap elections that year. And, as a sign that the former president’s days were numbered, the first issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a shining beacon of the free press of the time, was published.
Despite the transformative years that followed, one thing progressively got worse – the Philippine driving experience. Not because there was a total lack of infrastructure, although that is partly to blame for the mess we are in now, but because our driving culture never really saw an upliftment.
Like government officials focused on enriching themselves instead of helping make the nation great again, the everyday motorist, commuter, cyclist, pedestrian, and road user was only focused on getting to their destination in the shortest time. Others be damned.
But with the proliferation of the Internet, we slowly but surely realize that things could be better. The solution to traffic starts with self-discipline and that we tax-paying motorists deserve better. And if other countries can transform their clogged streets into havens for people, not cars, to roam freely about, then maybe it’s time we divest ourselves of our selfish motivations and start thinking for the greater good of our fellow citizens.
So here are 37 ways we can all become better road users. We know the transformation we seek won’t happen overnight. Still, if each one of us adopts a new behavior, then maybe, just maybe, we can experience a motoring renewal in this lifetime.
1. Obey traffic rules
Laws, rules, and regulations are there to maintain a semblance of order, and they’re not meant to restrict one’s freedom per se but to ensure others’ freedom and safety. If we all comply with road rules, we will avoid chaos, reduce stress, be safer, and feel better knowing everyone else had the same experience without unduly gaining an advantage.
2. Be more considerate of others
We don’t know what everyone is going through. Others may be in a rush or an emergency and need to cut ahead for one reason or another. Whatever ill feeling you harbor towards another driver who took advantage of you, let it go. It is not your job to teach others a lesson.
3. Don’t counterflow unless directed to
Suppose you’re tempted to do the easy thing to get ahead, don’t. Counterflowing is one of the lowest moves you can do on the road, and it shows the kind of breeding you have and highlights your disregard for others. Counterflowing may be a quick fix to relieve traffic in an area, but let the authorities handle it.
4. Let pedestrians cross in peace
People are at their most vulnerable when crossing a street. They have no chance against a “rumaragasang” hunk of metal that is your car or motorcycle. If you see someone poised to cross, slow down and stop. Little courtesies like these can make our world better and safer.
5. Use your signal lights
Letting other drivers know your intentions ahead of time is another courtesy we can have more of. This practice prepares other drivers to adjust their line, brake, or move to another lane without inconveniencing them.
6. Give way to others who are signaling their intention
Of course, it follows that when you see another driver indicating his intention to move to another lane or turn, you should give him the chance to do so without second-guessing. It works both ways, you know.
7. Stay in your lane
The key to having an orderly driving experience is for all of us to keep to the middle of the lanes. If you straddle between lanes, it slows down traffic flow behind you. Don’t be the driver who’s neither here nor there.
8. Follow lane markings
Notice those arrows painted on the ground at intersections or road exits? They’re meant to be followed. So if you’re in a lane with an arrow that turns right, please do it instead of going straight. Do not introduce confusion into an otherwise straightforward instruction.
9. Keep the yellow box open
If you know you’ll end up in the middle of an intersection because the traffic ahead is not moving, please do everyone else a favor and don’t move forward. Keep that intersection open for others to move through. You’ll get your chance at the next cycle.
10. Don’t beat the red light
Not only is beating the red light an affront to others who obey traffic signals, but it is also dangerous. Suppose an unassuming motorist goes forward because the traffic lights on his side turned green, and you’re coming full speed through the intersection because you don’t want to get delayed. In that case, a crash or an accident is more likely imminent. Please, spare others from your suicidal tendencies.
11. Don’t jump the green
As with the previous point, moving forward before the light turns green is also an ingredient for disaster. Wait for your turn, and don’t be in haste to accelerate. Patience is a virtue.
12. Look before moving
Always look left and right before driving forward or reversing, whether it’s an intersection, a parking slot, or even a railroad crossing. Don’t be shy to give it a second go too. That extra measure of safety is not just for you but for others around you.
13. Concentrate on your driving
In the age of interconnectivity, there are so many distractions around you when you drive. And we’re not just talking about mobile phones. Operating the car’s controls, talking to a passenger in the rear seat, or even putting down a cup of coffee into the cup holder can all be distractions that make you take your eyes away from the road ahead. Focus on the road ahead to anticipate what other drivers are doing. That way, you’ll have ample time to react safely.
14. Stop using your phone when behind the wheel
Driving demands your utmost attention, and with touchscreen mobile phones these days, it is a struggle to keep that attention on the road. It started with texting decades ago; now, even fiddling with apps can be dangerous when behind the wheel. Please stop or park your car if you need to send a message, search for a location, or select a song from a playlist through your phone. Let’s not be slaves to our gadgets.
15. Be patient
Remember when we said patience is a virtue? It sure is when everyone around you seems to be getting ahead by disregarding road rules and being plain arses. But that is why you should go beyond the call of duty when driving on our roads. Don’t assume everyone will think like you. That is the key to a less stressful drive.
16. Lessen the use of the car horn
It’s a standard fixture in every traffic scene, blaring horns. Nothing riles you up with so much anger and rage than a car horn blown at an inopportune time. Put yourself in the other driver’s shoes; you wouldn’t want them to be on the receiving end of a car horn banged in a fit of temper.
17. Don’t cut another driver
Do unto others what you want others to do unto you. Rings a bell? It should. If you don’t want to be caught by surprise with an ill-timed lane change ahead of you, be conscious enough not to do the same to others.
18. Don’t undertake
As a left-hand drive country, overtaking should always be done on the left side of another car. This is the area where the driver can see you best. If you’re driving a car or riding a motorcycle, undertaking, or overtaking on the right side of another vehicle, can be a dangerous move. Never assume the driver in front can see you when you’re on the right side.
19. Realize that you don’t own the road
Roads are meant to be shared with other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. Assuming that you’re entitled to more road space just because you drive a large car or SUV is just wrong. Everyone is on equal footing here. The sooner we all realize that, the less stressed we will be behind the wheel and the safer our roads will be.
20. Check your tire pressures regularly
Car ownership doesn’t stop with paying your monthly car loan dues; it should evolve into a more involved experience. Tire pressures, for example, are easy to check at your friendly neighborhood gas station. Keeping them at the recommended PSI allows you to operate your vehicle at an optimum range, maximize fuel savings, and ensure your safety on the road.
21. Check your car’s oil level regularly
Just because your car is brand new, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t open the hood from time to time to check the engine’s condition. It is the responsibility of every driver to ensure the car runs trouble-free.
22. Top-up your windshield washers
Sometimes it’s the simple things we forget. And just when we need them, they’re not available. Don’t let this happen to you. Check the washer fluid levels at least once a week to ensure they’re topped up and ready for the next splash.
23. Do a walkaround of your ride every time before your drive
Again, ensuring your car or motorcycle is good and safe to drive is your responsibility as an owner. Giving your vehicle a glance from front to back ensures they’re ready for the road. You’ll also know if there are nicks on the bodywork or deflated tires that may have happened while it was parked.
24. Schedule your vehicle’s PMS
Preventive Maintenance Service is essential to ensure your ride works and operates as the manufacturer intended. Getting the PMS done also lets you identify if there are potential problems or components in your vehicle that need attention. And if your ride is new, its warranty depends on you fulfilling the PMS schedules to a tee.
25. Wash your ride more often
Believe it or not, a clean vehicle is more pleasing to drive. Not only will you preserve your ride the more you keep it clean, but it will also appeal to the senses. You don’t leave home for work wearing soiled clothes, right?
26. Vacuum your car’s interiors regularly
Sometimes, when we eat in our cars, crumbs, and bits of food fall on the floor or get stuck between the seats. Keeping your car’s interiors clean by regularly vacuuming makes it smell fresh and clean every time you use it. It also lessens the chances of cultivating harmful bacteria or harboring insects inside your car.
27. Keep your car’s windshield streak-free
Visibility is essential to a safe drive. With rain a regular occurrence in our country, ensuring you can see far ahead is necessary for safety. Old wipers and dried oils can muck up the windshield, so make sure your wipers are fresh, and the windshield gets buffed from time to time.
28. Stop using fixers
We know, we know. The convoluted processes of registering your vehicle or even renewing your driver’s license can be time-consuming. But bureaucratic red tape should be dealt with at the proper forum, with recommendations for improvement. Not by employing fixers and perpetuating a culture of corruption. We complain about why only the small-time operators get caught. Well, who empowered them in the first place?
29. Purchase comprehensive insurance for your ride
Insurance is not just about giving you peace of mind in case of damage, accident, or theft. It is also necessary to ensure your financial culpability is limited in such cases. Cars aren’t cheap, and neither is getting into an accident.
30. Drive more efficiently
With the high cost of fuel nowadays, you have to have a light foot to improve the fuel efficiency of your ride. Employ known eco-run tactics to minimize your ride’s fuel consumption. Your budget will thank you for it.
31. Repair malfunctioning or damaged parts immediately
If you notice anything in your ride that needs replacement, do so with haste, especially if it’s safety-related or has something to do with your vehicle’s optimum operation. Not only will you lessen the chances of an accident, but you will also reduce further damage and a higher bill.
32. Commute when possible
Are you still worried about gas consumption? Or how about your ride’s tailpipe emissions? One way to alleviate your concerns about these and to reduce your environmental impact is to use public transportation. Granted, the situation with trains, buses, and PUJs isn’t ideal, but doing your part can help lessen the number of vehicles on the road so that others who urgently need to use them can do so easily.
33. Ride a bicycle more often
With the proliferation of bike lanes, taking on two wheels has become a less life-threatening option for many. If your destination is nearby, or if you want to develop a healthy habit, riding a bicycle can be a workable solution for many areas around the country.
34. Buy an EV
Whether it’s a Hybrid or it’s Battery EV, anything that lessens tailpipe emissions should be a good thing. We’ve seen how clean and clear our skies can be without the smog that vehicles produce every day. Why shouldn’t we do what we can to make this a regular fixture in our daily lives?
35. Go on a road trip
Creating an emotional bond with your car or motorcycle is a natural byproduct of ownership. The experiences and memories created over long journeys can be stories you can share again and again with your family. For many, a car or bike is not just an appliance but a life partner.
36. Take photos of your car
A car or a motorcycle can be a marker in time, and their designs show what the world was like during their heyday. Taking photos and selfies with your ride will bring back a flood of memories in the future of a generation that once prevailed.
37. Remember that your driving license is a privilege, not a right
We are all road users granted the limited liberty by the government to be mobile with our vehicles. Driving your car should be the same as riding your motorcycle – you occupy space, you follow the same rules, and you’re obliged to be responsible motorists. Your safety is as vital as others around you. The sooner we all realize that the faster we can achieve the peace, tranquility, and stress-free driving and riding we all yearn for.