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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

“First to stop, first to go”: The phenomenon of an emerging happy-driving culture

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Has Metro Manila traffic subsided with the opening of new roads and highways, to name a few, NLEX-SLEX Connector Road, Skyway Stage 3, Bonifacio Global City-Ortigas Center Link, and the Circumferential Road 5 that connects the cities of Las Piñas, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon City, Taguig, and Valenzuela?

Traffic is truly a pet peeve for everyone, and everyone I spoke with has a theory of why the traffic in Metro Manila is congested. In my survey of public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers, most attributed traffic to the number of cars, which has increased faster than new roads are being built.

As we see more and more new and flashy imported vehicles traversing the city roads along with old ones aged from two decades ago continuing to ply the streets, the fact that the increase of vehicles from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) average daily traffic volume 2018-2022 report shows a steady increase of 10 percent year on year except in 2020 at the height of the lockdowns during the pandemic when traffic dipped by seven percent.

The consistent 10 percent increase in average traffic despite the increase in roads supports the Fundamental Law of Road Congestion, which says that increasing the number of roads increases the demand for them, underscores that while the new roads provide temporary relief, soon, congestion will follow.

There is no substitute for effective traffic management planning and implementation, which necessarily affects driver behavior, another main source of city congestion.

In my first term as a doctoral student of business administration, I enjoyed the Management and Organization Theory course (most courses were delightful, by the way), which starts with identifying a phenomenon. As we were encouraged to undertake research beneficial to society, I tackled the issue of Metro Manila traffic.

First thought: The phenomenon of the death of driving courtesy on Metro Manila roads may sound a bit morbid or, for less dramatic wording, the phenomenon of driver entitlement with simply the “me first” attitude.

Come to think of it. Would a simple gesture of allowing a vehicle to cross to the other side when the traffic in one’s lane is very slow anyway be a considerable loss in travel time?

A little courtesy of giving way could prevent gridlocks. But we see it all the time. People do not give way because they have to go first, not thinking of the overall effect for the good of the majority.

Most recent in my thought space is the phenomenon of diminishing driving distances.

Metro Manila roads have become a battlefield wherein the sense of space is pushed to the limit.

I see motorcyclists zigzagging through the tight crevices, squeezing in between four-wheeled vehicles, seemingly tolerant to small brushes of their and their passenger’s body parts with the sides of said adjacent vehicles.

Amid the sense of helplessness in hoping for a solution to Metro Manila traffic, some light in the darkness emerged, which I observed in a small subdivision in Parañaque City.

A four-way unsignalized intersection stands with a prominent sign: “First to stop, first to go.”

Motorists must voluntarily decide to do a full stop to allow others who arrived at the intersection to go first.

“First to stop, first to go.”

After seeing this sign several times on my way to work and back, one day, I witnessed a sports utility vehicle (SUV) ahead of me consciously stop at the intersection and allow the car from the opposite side to go first.

It was awesome!

Those few seconds of giving way made the traffic flow smoothly.

That gesture of driving courtesy started this thought process: “If someone is doing it, then I should do it, too. Additionally, there was this happy feeling within that the simple courtesy prevented a possible traffic conflict, and everyone was happy. Smart!”

It was so refreshing to see people giving way to one another as opposed to what I call the “battle of inches,” especially when two lanes merge into one.

Each vehicle driver will assert themselves inch by inch until it becomes more apparent who wins and will go first.

In such a scenario, a common situation in Metro Manila, everyone loses, not just in terms of time, fuel usage, and, more importantly, stress, which directly affects mental and physical health.

“First to stop, first to go” allows graciousness, a characteristic of Filipinos known worldwide for hospitality.

Note that during adverse situations like calamities, Pinoys rich and poor, have been observed to practice “pakikipagkapwa selflessly,” or having a sense of being a good neighbor and, for some, even reaching out to others in need at the expense of life and limb, especially in the events of destructive typhoons and volcanic eruptions.

“First to stop, first to go.”

They have started a culture change in this small subdivision, even within its small confines.

It is a simple but effective formula: (1) Effective information dissemination, e.g., authorities created prominent signs, and (2) Leading by example, i.e., motorists voluntarily follow.

The reality is that we cannot just depend on traffic enforcers to manage traffic flow.

Now, the question is, who will start the gracious driving gesture of giving way, hoping that others will follow suit?

Don’t look elsewhere. Why not start? People may not follow immediately, but it takes motorists making conscious, smart choices to alleviate traffic by graciously sacrificing a few seconds of their time to give way. Metro Manila has a chance, especially with government support for an effective information campaign.

There is such great wisdom in one Lasallian prayer: “Today I start the change I want to see. Even if I’m not the light, I can be the spark.” It takes the sacrifice of one or maybe two or more, and little by little, the “me-first” will be transformed into a “good for the majority” attitude.

Let us be sparks towards a happy driving culture—Pinoy style.

The author is an Assistant Professor, currently the Vice Chair of the Department of Financial Management at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University, where she also finished her Master of Business Administration degree and B.S. in Chemical Engineering. She is currently a Doctor of Business Administration student at the same university. Her advocacy and research interests are poverty alleviation, social entrepreneurship, and sustainability.

The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.

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