Making city driving a walk in the park

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(Read: How to survive Metro Manila roads)
OH well, sometimes the truth hurts.
In October 2015, Metro Manila got an unwanted distinction of having “the worst traffic on earth” from road navigation app Waze, which surveyed the sentiments of motorists worldwide.

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Ask motorists in the country’s capital region, and chances are they would all say Metro Manila traffic had gotten the better of them at one time or another.

“Heavy rush hour traffic, countless traffic lights, impossible parking, cramped streets, unpredictable pedestrians, negligent jeepney and taxi drivers, and the ever present threat of car theft can make city driving quite challenging and stressful,” opines Carlos Ubaldo, director of self-help blog Pinoy Driver.

But take heart. Driving buffs say it’s not hopeless, especially if the change starts from the motorists themselves—the very reason blogs like Pinoy Driver, LTOExam.com, and Metro Manila Directions were put up.

“Fortunately, there are plenty of things that you can do to make city driving a lot easier,” says Ubaldo.

Like Ubaldo’s Pinoy Driver blog, the Metro Manila Directions website offers tips for motorists—from would-be drivers to non-professional and professional drivers—gives tips online about driving on Philippine roads, particularly in busy Metro Manila.

“We believe there is such a thing as Metro Manila driving,” says the website, adding in jest: “Once you learn how to drive in the metro, you will be one of the most skillful drivers in the world.”

For starters, in Pinoy Driver blog, Ubaldo gives a number of essential city driving reminders, some of which are commonsense if the driver is thinking straight.

Manual vs. automatic
“Manual cars are less expensive and are often more fuel-efficient, but driving them in heavy stop-and-go traffic would be quite a stress,” Ubaldo points out. “So be deliberate and weigh the trade-offs of both transmissions, especially if you know you’re going to be in the city often.”

Get a city car
“If you know you’ll be driving in the city more often than in the countryside, then having a city car—usually smaller in length and width—will make maneuvering and parking in the city much easier,” Ubaldo advises. “Don’t forget to look at the specs and even more into the reviews online before you buy one.”

Keep your cool
As for rude and reckless public utility vehicle drivers, Ubaldo advises:“Don’t take it to heart and become frustrated. It’s so normal here in the Philippines. So, be patient and see to it that you give PUVs enough space to change lane and always be cautious when passing by one.”

Watch out for pedestrians
“Many pedestrians here are quite stubborn; they might surprise with sudden and reckless attempt to cross the street, where it is not safe for them to do so, and sometimes, even where they are discouraged to do so,” Ubaldo points out. “Slow down and watch for the signs that a person is about to cross the road—waiting at the kerb, distracted walking towards the kerb (e.g. looking at a phone), or someone looking like they are in a hurry.”

Making turns
“Making turns on urban roads can be confusing and tricky especially to novice drivers,” he says. “If you are unsure whether it’s illegal or not to make a turn, just continue driving forward and make your turn when you’re sure it’s okay and safe to do so.”

Avoid rush hour
“If you can, try to avoid driving during peak hours. Rush hour in the Philippines is from 5-8pm; this is when traffic is heaviest as most people’s workday is done and they are going home. If it’s unavoidable to drive during the peak hours then prepare yourself for a more time-consuming drive than the usual,” says Ubaldo.

Parking
“There are plenty of parking spaces in the city, and many of them are paid parking. Have your parking fee ready when driving in the city just in case you may need to park,” he adds. “It’s usually safer to park on paid parking than in the streets because they are guarded. And don’t forget to secure your parking ticket and don’t leave it inside your car if you think your car could be of interest to carnappers. Secure your valuables out-of-sight in your car before leaving it. Bring them with you if you can; if not, put them in the trunk before you park to deter thieves and make your car as crime-resistant as possible.

Meanwhile, here are tips for easy city driving from the Metro Manila Directions website:
1. Wear your seatbelt.

2. Be mindful of your route and always have a map with you. Do not go out driving not knowing how to get to your destinations.

3. Take note of number coding days.

4. Adhere to basic traffic rules. Stop at the red light. No swerving. No U-Turn. One Way. No Entry. Stick to your lane. Pedestrians first. Respect bicycle lanes. Don’t drive on the yellow lane on EDSA. No blowing of horns.

5. Use your signal lights when turning. This is not just to caution the driver behind you that you are changing lanes or turning but also helps that driver to avoid accidentally hitting your vehicle.

6. Use gas stations as safety pit stops. If you get lost or would just like to rest, head on for the next gas station that you find, especially at night. Do not just stop in the middle of the road.

7. Respect the law, then the traffic enforcers. Don’t bribe.

8. Keep distance from buses, trucks, and jeepneys.

9. Precautionary tools are a must: spare tires; emergency reflectors (those triangle signs you use when you get stuck on the road); contact numbers , etc.

10. Avoid distractions at all cost: loud music, texting, answering calls, getting something from your bag, etc.

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