Monday, June 30, 2008

Rules of the Road

Manila has some of the worst drivers on the face of the earth.

Yeah, yeah, I know. That's big talk, coming from one who has almost no experience behind the wheel at all. But while I'm walking on my own two feet, chances are that you're sitting in the front seat of your own vehicle. Chances are that you've cursed at the other people on the road, wondered why the hell they do the things they do, and all in all, observed the very same thing that I'm pointing out at this very moment.

So I'm sorry to say this, but you know perfectly well that it's true: Manila has some of the worst drivers on the face of the earth.

I bring this up because of a little incident earlier today. If you weren't up that early to get to work, I'll fill you in: Early this morning, a truck figured in an accident along one of the city's major highways. It was carrying a full load of ethanol when it crashed into a post near the entrance to a tunnel, which apparently punctured one of its tanks. The next thing we knew, the area was inundated with ethanol, and we had one of the nastiest traffic snarls in recent memory.

And just to put the icing on the cake, I must point out that ethanol is flammable, that it gives off a terrible odor (especially when a lot of it has spilled out on the street), and that we're talking about the most populous highway in the city here. The result was, in a colleague's words, "the most compelling excuse to give up and go home."

I've read somewhere that the truck's driver claimed that he was trying to avoid a speeding bus, and that the police doubt him very much. I've also noted that the truck practically turned turtle during the progression of the stunt, and I find that interesting -- it almost certainly indicates that a high rate of speed was involved. Whether the issue at hand was an errant bus or a speeding truck, though, I wouldn't be surprised either way.

And in a sense, it's not just the truck from this morning. It's the jeepneys that stop to let off passengers in the middle of the road. It's the drivers who fail to signal or turn on their blinkers whenever they try something fancy. It's the taxis that decide to make a left turn from the rightmost lane, the motorcycles that weave between idling vehicles, the massive sixteen-wheelers who take shortcuts through quiet neighborhoods and tiny side streets.

It's the people who run red lights. It's the people who go against traffic. It's the people who speed through pedestrian crossings. It's the people who get up at two in the morning to race on supposedly empty streets. It's the people who invest in sirens and strange-sounding horns with no good reason at all. It's the people who think that sitting in the driver's seat puts them on a certain pedestal, a high-and-mighty position that tells them that they own the road, and that everybody else is an opposing force against whom they can compete.

Between the haphazard streetworks, the corrupt cops and the bad asphalt, we have enough things to worry about. If there's anything that should send us over the edge, it should be a lot less than a speeding truck driver who suddenly refused to take responsibility for what he perfectly knew to be flammable cargo.

You can say a lot about humanity, but one thing that you can't deny is our tendency to be completely and creatively self-destructive.

Sometimes I'm surprised that we're still kicking around.


Kat said...

Hey Sean. How are you doing? Been a while since I visited. :p

I agree 100% with your verdict on our drivers. I'm not a driver myself, but I've seen my share of reckless, careless, feckless ones... as well as very irresponsible and "pasaway" pedestrians. It's one big and messy cycle (so to speak).

My uncle and I thought that a game based on the streets of Manila would be an interesting one. Kind of like GTA, only this time, you have to get from point A to point B without breaking traffic rules. You'll be given many tempting rule-breaking scenarios, and it's up to you not to give in.

Sean said...


Earlier this evening, a speeding bicyclist slammed into the side of our car at top speed, breaking off the right side mirror. And while we were checking the damage, the idiot decided to make his escape. He is now officially on the list of people who I will seek out once I snap and start carrying around a high-powered telescopic rifle.


Yes, I'm kidding about the rifle. But I'm still pissed. :(

Kat: Interestingly enough, I still read your blog. :)

I don't know what gives our drivers (and bicyclists) such irresponsible qualities. Is it the power associated with being behind the wheel? Is it something about our culture? Is it our paranoia, our arrogance, our status quo? What is it, and why can't we curtail it?

Then again, this is a world where a game that lets you break traffic laws is seen as far more entertaining than a game that rewards you for playing safe. (Apart from GTA, just check out any street-racing game.) The only thing I can conclude so far is that whatever it is that gets us acting like road-hog howler monkeys, it must be something ironically human.

Gem :3 said...

Hmm I drive.
And although there is an amount of very inconsiderate private vehicle drivers out there, it's the amount of the public vehicle and service vehicle drivers that cause most of the traffic and inconveniences.

Motorcylists deem themselves as mobile pedestrians weaving around on the highways then put them vs bus taking up 2-3 lanes because they stuck their nose too close to the bus ahead of them... It's morbid but I enjoy seeing motorcycles getting beat up by other vehicles-- guess if you drive, you'd know what I mean.

Private vehicle owners can take care of their own rides... but can you ask a jeepney driver to shoulder the initial payment of your insurance coverage? NO. How bout a tricycle driver? Ha-ha. You're better off trying to hitch their bikes on the back of your car and chuck it to those metal junk people, you'll get more cash out of it.

I guess I just want to say that jeepney drivers and such should have stricter licensure policies that actually make sure they are educated on the road, and adhere to what they've learned. However, seeing as most of them aren't really college graduates or lack good breeding, can you blame them?

A few reasons why I think people drive fast or inconsiderately:

- the speed is comfortable: too slow, too fast, whatever. People have their own "speeds".
- you think your insurance can pay for everything and you're just feeling blah.
- there is never enough lead time when you have to deal with traffic
- gottapeegottapeegottapeegottapee
- gottapoogottapoogottapoogottapoo

haha... take care Sean... when you cross the pedestrian lane, keep looking at the eyes of the driver, not the headlights of the car.

Sean said...

Gem: The funny thing is that I really do look into the eyes of the drivers whenever I cross the pedestrian lanes. I get a lot of dirty looks that way.

Gem :3 said...

Haha Ideally it's supposed to help you determine if the driver actually sees you as you cross.
The dirty look is a plus I guess hehe

Sean said...

Gem: After everything that's happened recently, I'm tending towards the assumption that they do see us cross... and yet a fair number of them don't really care. We are, unfortunately, little more than irritating roadblocks to them.