Want to Arrive Sooner?

For the first time I got not too hostile comments in the on-line version of this letter to the editor of the Inquirer. The sad thing though is that they all agree that Filipino drivers are discourteous and undisciplined. Looks like we have a long way to go here.

This letter appeared in the July 27, 2018 issue of the Inquirer.

Many opinions and news reports have been appearing lately in the Inquirer about our traffic problem. It is a complex problem involving many variables and parameters. Therefore, the solution to this problem will not be a simple one. But I think that even if one day our country will have put in place all the roads, traffic lights, skyways, highways, subways, trains, and computer systems to promote the efficient flow of traffic, we might still have traffic jams unless we have two simple attitudes: courtesy and discipline.

I live in a part of the city where there are automated traffic lights and enforcers directing traffic in many street intersections. As I left the house one day, all of a sudden there was a very heavy downpour. As a result, there was gridlock everywhere and I ended up stuck in the same place for 30 minutes. The poor enforcers could not stand under that heavy rain and they sought shelter. I would not blame them for saving their lives. But when there is no one standing in the intersection telling the motorists who will go first, everyone wants to go first. Then we have a gridlock.

It might just require a bit of courtesy and thoughtfulness to make sure the traffic flows. I have seen how motorists insist on passing through an intersection even though they can see they cannot go through because the street they are entering is full of cars that are not moving. In the meantime they block the cars that can pass: The street these are entering is free. If only the blocking cars allowed the others to pass, this move might have allowed the clogged traffic to eventually flow. But no: They want to go first. In some intersections in another country I visited, there are signs that say “Yield”. Now I see the wisdom of that sign.

In yet another country we were in a freeway. One might expect in a three-lane highway one can speed. But we found ourselves in a queue of cars moving at a very slow speed. I was wondering why there was no row in the outermost lane. I was told that lane was only for emergencies—stalled cars and ambulances, for example. Anyway, as soon as we were out of the blockage, two cars had collided and allowed only one lane free. And yet the lines of cars soon moved out because they followed a system: Each car followed alternate turns in getting out. Since each one knew his turn would come, it went very fast. That was discipline and courtesy.

And so we also need discipline. I am referring not only to motorists but to everyone. We are all in this together and we each have a role to play. Discipline means doing our jobs. When a heavy rain came one day, the traffic light in a major intersection broke down. It took more than half an hour for it to be fixed and working again. Traffic aides came but they could not unravel the mess that ensued after the lights stopped working.

Discipline also means following the rules. We all must realize that though following rules might seem to put oneself at a disadvantage because one might have to wait a little (because the other car can go while I cannot yet), go around a longer route (the street I have to enter is just behind and I can go against one-way traffic), or walk farther (I can make the jeepney stop here in front of my door instead of at the stop), in reality following the rules benefits everyone including oneself.

Let’s be courteous and disciplined and we’ll get there sooner.

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