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New Year’s resolution: Be a better motorist


As much as possible, don’t eat and drink while driving as this is not only messy but dangerous. A piping hot coffee is one item you should not to have in your car while driving

This general shot shows vehicles stuck in traffic in Manila on December 14, 2017. The Philippines has passed a tax reform bill at the heart of President Rodrigo Duterte's economic agenda, officials said, raising levies on coal, cars, soft drinks and cosmetic surgeries to rebuild the country's crumbling infrastructure. (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP)

Each year, Filipino motorists, particularly those in Metro Manila, spend about 241 hours behind the wheel, according to the annual traffic index compiled by the Netherlands-based location, navigation and map technology specialist, TomTom.

While this means we do love to bring our cars or motorcycles to work or to wherever we want to be, that same traffic index says that these motorists waste about 100 hours slogging through painfully heavy traffic.

On average, it took 27 minutes for these motorists to travel 10 kilometers in Metro Manila.

There are several reasons Metro Manila is ranked ninth in the world and fourth in Asia for having such miserable traffic. Like all the rest of the 390 cities surveyed, Metro Manila has an overflowing number of vehicles especially during rush hours, which happen from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., and again from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Numerous construction projects along several routes also contribute to congestion plus the fact that commuters rely heavily on buses and jeepneys as train lines are inadequate and we still have no subway system.


Residents commute on a motorcycle past an overturned hut in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Noru in San Ildefonso, Bulacan province on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP)


During the rainy season, traffic situation could also worsen as sudden downpour often cause flash flooding that completely stops traffic flow.

But another contributor to traffic congestion, which motorists may be able to do something about, is our poor driving habits.

Sudden lane changes, tailgating, aggressive driving, and speeding can all cause accidents that slow or stop traffic flow. Similarly, distracted driving (e.g., those who love checking their smartphones while stuck in traffic) and driving under the influence can also to lead similar outcomes.

According to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Metro Manila has been experiencing an average of around 200 road accidents a day.

Since we are just in the first few days of 2024 let’s try making a list of New Year’s resolutions, particularly on things involving little changes to our driving habits. This would be significant because these resolutions will affect every driver or passenger who shares the road with us.

So, here’s a list of resolutions that, it is hoped, would be diligently followed by motorists not just this year, but every time they go out and share the road.


Use signal lights

The turn signal is one way that a motorist uses to communicate with fellow road users. But doing such a simple thing seems like a tedious task to many.

Turn signals are there for a reason. Some drivers think that using them is an optional act when it’s actually required by law since they let the other drivers know if you’re either turning left or right, which gives them time to slow down or safely change lane.

Don’t assume that every driver or pedestrian around you knows when your vehicle is about to make a turn. By using your turn signal, you are communicating with them and in turn, doing your part in keeping everyone safe on the road.

Another important point is to flip the signal lever about 10 seconds before making a turn or changing lane. Failing to do so might not give enough time for the vehicle behind you to stop, which usually leads to an accident that could’ve been avoided.


Follow road signs

If you’re riding a motorcycle and there’s a sign that says, “No Motorcycle, No Tricycles, No Bicycle, No Parking,” it means you are prohibited from using that road even if there’s no traffic enforcer around or if other riders are doing it anyway. We often encounter these violators along the length of the Zapote River Drive in Las Piñas City.

The sign, painted on walls in some parts along the Zapote River Drive is there for probably a couple of reasons, and one of the things that I can think of is that, the authorities deem that it’s for every motorist’s safety to only allow four wheelers to use the narrow and serpentine road that follows the length of the Zapote River.

As expected, some motorcycle groups and individual riders regard the sign as discriminatory. But an order in big bold letters should be followed until a complaint is lodged and a decision is made to scrap it. In the meantime, it would be prudent to just follow what the sign says.


Take better care of my car or motorcycle

If you haven’t been taking care of your vehicle the past year, then 2024 is the year to change that. Here are some tips for properly maintaining a functioning ride:

  • Are your tires not yet expired? Swap them for a newer set if they’re already beyond six years old even if their threads are still deep.
  • Are your tires properly inflated? An overinflated tire can burst unexpectedly, primarily if it hits a pothole or debris. On the other hand, an underinflated tire isn’t safe either as the increased friction from a large surface area on the tire’s contact point can cause it to overheat and blow out.
  • Always check for busted lightbulbs in the headlights, turn signals as well as rear lights. Busted rear lights are often dangerous, especially for motorcycles, as they surprise other motorists who fail to see them, especially in dimly lit streets. As for the non-functioning headlights, the MMDA says that vehicles not using headlights at night constitutes reckless driving.
  • Don’t wait until the fuel tank is empty because there’s a big chance that your vehicle gets stalled on the road and become an instant hazard to other motorists. Also, with no more fuel to pump, air will enter the fuel system which could cause catastrophic damage to the engine, not to mention premature failure of the fuel pump. A hefty replacement bill, usually always follow which of course, we all want to avoid.
  • Don’t leave random belongings in your vehicle. Remember that it’s not an extra storage room and this habit only tends to accumulate more trash inside. Vacuum and wipe down your car’s interior (or your motorcycle’s storage compartment) at least once a month.


Try to leave early

The things that obstruct traffic or make us late are often unpredictable: A road work, a stalled vehicle or an on-going parade. You are better off leaving as early as possible. If you arrive early for an appointment, you could just wait inside your vehicle or in any safe place. It’s better than being trapped helplessly in traffic, and eventually missing whatever it is that you’ve scheduled on that day.


WHILE sometimes necessary, refrain from checking your smartphone while driving.


Eliminate things that could distract

Considering how convenient it is to access social media and other apps while driving, begin 2024 by promising to stay focused on the road and eliminate all distractions. Make sure your Waze or equivalent app is already set before leaving. Make sure your music playlist is also set so you won’t have to fiddle with the entertainment system while Wdriving.

As much as possible, don’t eat and drink while driving as this is not only messy but dangerous. A piping hot coffee is one item you should not to have in your car while driving. Eating while driving can leave a mess not only in your vehicle but also on your clothes.

Part of the reason talking on your mobile phone — even if on speaker mode — while driving is so risky is because our brains are physically incapable of giving 100 percent of our attention to do more than one task. Texting or responding to a message takes around five seconds and if you are traveling at 60 kilometers per hour, you would have travelled the equivalent length of three basketball courts, and not focusing on your driving could have dangerous consequences.


Wear helmet/strap on my seatbelt

According to the Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009 (Republic Act 10054), all motorcycle riders and pillion riders who venture out in public roads must wear a standard motorcycle helmet which bears either the Philippine Standard mark or Import Commodity Clearance of the Bureau of Product Standards.

Wearing just a cycling helmet, skateboard helmet, combat helmet or even construction helmet doesn’t cut it because an inappropriate and improperly fitted helmet will not protect against concussions and traumatic brain injury, which may result to a strong blow or jolt to the head in accidents.

Also, there’s the Seat Belts Use of Act of 1999 (Republic Act 8750) that states that the driver and passengers (both rear and front passengers) of private and public vehicles are required to use and wear their seat belts every time they’re inside a vehicle with a running engine on any street, road, and highway. This means that drivers and passengers have no valid excuse if they’re caught not wearing a seatbelt while on the road.

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