Monday, November 19, 2007

Here is a very interesting article on the Inquirer regarding the Filipino's attitude towards driving.

For Filipino drivers, traffic lights are mere suggestions
By Tessa Salazar
Last updated 05:13am (Mla time) 11/18/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- As the story goes, when Formula 1 driver Jenson Button visited Manila a few years ago, he quipped: “I can see lots of Formula 1 driving out here.”

Button’s wry observation has been echoed by many first-time visitors to Metro Manila. How can Filipinos, known for being hospitable, generous and caring, be transformed into road bullies when behind the wheel?

Mandy Eduque, Automobile Association Philippines director, likes to quote an Australian traffic consultant of a public works project who made this stunning observation: For Filipino drivers, traffic lights are merely “a suggestion.”

Dr. Jose Regin Regidor, director of the UP National Center for Transportation Studies, blames it on impatience. Combined with the “Filipino time” attitude of doing things at the last minute, this forces drivers—of both public and private vehicles—to resort to overly aggressive driving.

Lack of education and training could be another factor, he adds. “There’s this misconception that only public transport drivers are at fault. But in reality, the public utility and truck drivers are more predictable in their behavior [compared] to many private drivers who are barumbado (reckless).”

Regidor adds that road bullies exist because other drivers allow themselves to be intimidated. “If you see a luxury car or an SUV tailgating you, you would most probably give way. And that car wouldn’t even have to flash his headlights.”

Surprisingly, these bully drivers are usually educated and accomplished individuals. “But once they get behind the wheel, their personality changes, they have an alter ego. I agree, some people imagine themselves as F1 drivers [on public streets],” Regidor says.

He adds that aggressive driving also applies to motorcyclists who express their “impatience” by weaving in and out of lanes.

Traffic rules

Generally speaking, Filipinos find it difficult to follow traffic rules.

Conforming to traffic rules is determined by the visibility of enforcers and the “mood” of other motorists at any particular time.

Dr. Edgardo Juan L. Tolentino, president of the Group for Addiction Psychiatry of the Philippines, says when there are no law enforcers at an intersection, drivers interpret a yellow traffic light as a signal to “hurry up,” hence they go faster.

“But if there’s a Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) traffic enforcer or policeman at the intersection, when drivers see a yellow light, they slow down or stop,” he says.

Tolentino adds that in more developed countries, drivers inherently follow traffic rules, whether or not traffic officers are present.

Accident contributory factor

Dr. Felicitas Soriano, Philippine Psychiatry Association president, says Filipinos have a “destructive culture” when it comes to traffic rules and regulations.

She cites the value of lamangan or isahan (putting one over the other) as part of the Filipino driver’s psyche. In this situation, traffic rules and regulations are thrown out the window.

Aurora Corpuz Mendoza, a psychologist who did a study on road safety last year, says “there is growing recognition that road user behavior is now the most important single accident contributory factor, with 85 percent of road accidents in the Philippines caused by driver error or violations.”

Mendoza is with the Psychology department of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

Risk factors

Her study investigated the behavior of 334 public jeepney and private drivers in different areas of Metro Manila. Three violations were most prevalent: Illegal counterflow, failure to give way while turning, and tailgating.

There were three risk factors: Behavior of other drivers, the presence or absence of traffic enforcers, and perceived road/vehicle conditions.

According to Mendoza’s study, factors that influenced driver behavior included driver’s age, gender, education, driver type, risk-taking personality, perceived risks of traffic violations, acceptance of risk for traffic violations, the social environment that includes the drivers and traffic enforcers, the vehicle, and the physical environment or the road, and weather conditions.

Results showed that drivers more likely to commit traffic violations were young, male, operating public transport and with low levels of education.

Social environment

Data also showed that drivers were more likely to commit traffic violations if they don’t see any traffic enforcer.

Mendoza says the behavior of other people present in a traffic environment provides a social construct of reality that can reduce personal uncertainty on what behavior is safe and what is risky.

The study also showed that drivers without college degrees had significantly stronger intentions to commit traffic violations compared to college graduates.

Mendoza says that this finding is “noteworthy because it points to the importance of a college education, in the local setting, to driver decisions to violate rules.”

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