I AM writing this column on a Thanksgiving night. It is that time of the year that we gather our families together to give thanks to God – for all the blessings that we have been receiving. Most Filipinos, however, reserve that “family gathering” for Christmas Day.
Indeed, we have so many things to thank the Lord for. Unfortunately, the horrendous state of traffic mismanagement is not one of them.
Waze, the community-driven and GPS-based navigation app, released its third annual Global Driver Satisfaction Index (DSI) confirming that the Philippines is the worst place on earth to drive.
It created the world’s first DSI in October 2015 by evaluating the driving experience of some 50 million Waze users in 32 countries and 167 metro areas. The index is from 10 (satisfying) to 1 (miserable). In the first edition of the index, the Philippines got a rating of 3.9, making it the ninth worst place to drive. The worst place to drive in 2015 was El Salvador with an index of 2.1.
Two years after, the Philippines had “improved” its rating from the ninth worst to the worst. Meaning, the Philippines is now at the bottom of all the evaluated countries in terms of driver satisfaction. The Philippines’ DSI is now at 3.02, while El Salvador upped its index to 3.56.
Huffington Post list
Even before Waze came up with its DSI, the Huffington Post published in February 2014 the Top 10 Absolute Worst Places to Drive in the World. Manila was included in that Top 10 list. The world’s worst places to drive were presented in no particular order and without a corresponding index or rating.
Manila was lumped with the company of Lagos (Nigeria), Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), and Mumbai in India.
Here is how Huffington Post described Manila’s traffic situation:
“Pedestrians always having the right of way may seem natural to drivers in America, but this concept is not so intrinsic in Manila. Unfortunately, this means that driving and crossing roadways on foot are both traitorous territory in this city. If you’re not native to the Philippines, chances are good that you will be left with the blame in a roadway incident. What’s more, there is a coding system put in place which designates who is allowed to operate a vehicle on certain days and who isn’t, making this place even more confusing for its drivers.”
Dangerousroads.org added: “The rules of the road are rather lax in the Philippine capital city. Triple-lane changes, using opposite lanes of traffic to get out of jams, turning left from the far right… these are all things that car rental drivers can expect to experience during their morning drive. Manila drivers also have an aversion to signaling and tend to breeze through red lights without so much as a second glance.” It suggested that, “If you’re thinking about planning an international road trip with friends, you may want to consider skipping [these]destinations.”
Forbes magazine data
Forbes magazine included on its September 27, 2017 issue the “Best and Worst Cities to Drive 2017.” It said:
“We believe every city should be great to drive in. We conducted a study to discover which are the best and worst cities for driving, with the aim of enriching the debate around modern mobility and encouraging cities to learn from each other’s positive urban engagements and legislation. The study examined several factors; congestion levels, public transport options, average cost of parking, cost of fuel, average speeds, levels of air pollution, accidents and fatalities, road quality and the frequency/perception of road rage. Any traffic delays or congestion caused by temporary construction work was not taken into account for this study. Once all factors were researched for 100 cities, a final score was calculated for each.”
Fortunately, Manila was not part of the researched cities. We can only approximate Manila’s score by comparing it with its foreign counterparts. Out of 100 cities, Ulaanbaatar landed at No. 97 with a 65 percent congestion and 21.80 mph average speed. Lagos was at No. 98 with 60 percent congestion and 10.70 mph average speed.
Check your car for its average speed as recorded in its electronic data storage. Cars manufactured during the last five years has an “information button” in the dashboard which can display the average speed of the car while driven. I checked mine, and my friends’ cars, and we averaged around 11 kph, which is roughly 6.84 mph – lower than that of Lagos. If Manila was included in the subject 100 cities, for sure it will take the last spot.
Is it merely the volume of motor vehicles that causes traffic congestion in the Philippines? Traffic managers are almost always quick to put the blame on this issue. However, one major factor that makes the Philippines the worst place to drive is the mismanagement itself by these traffic managers.
We are a nation with hundreds of traffic laws. But most of these laws remain on paper. Sometimes, implemented with gusto during the first couple of weeks and then totally forgotten. Remember the motorcycle and yellow lanes in EDSA?
Take the case of traffic lights. These lights are installed in intersections to eliminate human intervention and control the flow of traffic. Oftentimes, traffic enforcers override these lights, thinking that they are more “intelligent” than the traffic lights. They serve as a catalyst for drivers to break the law. When will driving through a red light be considered an offense? One will never discern. Ask the traffic enforcer manning the intersection.
Tricycles and pedicabs are strictly prohibited along national highways. Look at EDSA extension. Tricycles and pedicabs are running freely and even counterflowing without being apprehended by the traffic enforcers. They are banned only during ASEAN summits, SEA Games, Papal visits, and other international events hosted by the Philippines. On ordinary days, they are permitted to break the traffic laws.
When is No Parking really No Parking? It depends. In the area fronting the Post Office Building in Lawton, colorum UV Express vans have established their terminal there, complete with signages, which is just a stone’s throw from a police community precinct. Their illegal terminal, and constant illegal parking is tolerated by the police authorities. I wonder why.
These are just some, but there are more traffic laws that are selectively implemented, if ever. Traffic laws should be implemented at all times. They should not be subject to the whims and caprices of the implementing authorities.