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Driving is a responsibility as much as a right

/ 10:22 PM August 09, 2011

In my last few columns, I have mentioned the need for more and more roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects as they are key to improving traffic, decongesting Metro Manila and helping to improve the supply routes of food and other valuable goods and services to and from the Metropolis.

However, after my last trip to Germany, and the recent slew of accidents that happened on the road, particularly on the Skyway, a new question popped into my head: Are we, the average Filipino motorist, truly prepared for proper, world-class super highways where the average speeds are far higher than our present roads?

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We all know of the bus that flew out of the Skyway, killing people and seriously injuring others. The bus driver was purportedly racing with another bus on the road before losing control. Last Wednesday, on the way to the south, another vehicle, an L300 van turned into the ramp from the NAIA 3 complex and into the Skyway southbound and also lost control, skidding and turning the van onto its side. Nothing major, but the havoc it caused was monumental for the people stuck behind as the ramp leading to the southbound lane of Skyway is only safely wide enough for a single car to pass through.

Chris Lao, the driver who submarined his car on Mother Ignacia St. on Quezon City a few days ago was also adamant that it was the government’s fault, or everyone else’s fault for that matter, and not his, for the tragedy that happened to his car. Come on now, is it really not your fault?

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Do we have the bare minimum of driving skills, properly maintained, safely tuned cars and more importantly, the right attitude to drive properly on truly world-class roads? Driving is a responsibility as much as it is a right. Much like being a parent, driving involves putting your life and the lives of other people in your hands. If you cannot take care of your life and the lives of others, you should not be driving. By taking care of lives, you need the correct driving skills, foresight and common sense. Knowing how to change gears is hardly being responsible, let alone driving stupidly fast and coming back in one piece. GPS has helped make driving easier, but for most people, having a map in your car, studying it in your spare time and knowing all possible routes going to and from your major points of interest such as home, office and school are important knowledge we should stock up on.

Car maintenance in our country is like that of a typical Filipino Catholic, i.e. very nominal. The typical Filipino Catholic, though he or she may believe in God, feels that there are other more important matters that need attention on a Sunday or holy day of obligation rather than going to church. Similarly, the 5,000-kilometer servicing schedule is oft neglected because people think that as long as the car is running, there’s nothing wrong with it. And when they do have it serviced, they often go for the cheapest option, which as we all know is not always the best or safest option. Sad. And dangerous.

It is easy to get a driver’s license here in our country. It’s the red tape and bureaucratic BS that makes it slow and inefficient, but otherwise, it’s easy. All you need is a birth certificate to get your student’s permit, then after 30 days, present your student’s permit to get your driving license. The license is easy as well: get a drug test and take the written exam. A fixer hands you the answer sheet to the exam, which is not that hard to pass in fact. The actual driving test involves getting into a car, and err, that’s about it. I remember getting my license without need for even starting the car, much less moving it forward and back, even in the parking lot. Sad.

In other countries like the United States and Germany, you need a number of hours (a minimum of 20 hours in Germany) driving on public roads with a licensed instructor watching your every move like a hawk, and in a variety of conditions such as daytime driving, night time driving, snowy conditions, rain etc. And the failure rate is quite high, unlike in the Philippines, where the passing rate is one of the few very high things we have: practically a 100 percent passing rate for all new driver’s license exam takers. And yet the slew of new drivers can’t even identify the vast majority of traffic signs, don’t know where eastbound and westbound is in relation to Ortigas Avenue, or northbound and southbound is in relation to EDSA.

We can have the best roads, but with the average incompetence, and more importantly, disdain for safe and proper driving techniques as well as poor car maintenance, we’ll just be creating bigger traffic jams on our new beautiful, world-class roads.

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TAGS: driving, Motoring, road safety
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