Traffic > Safety

Everything that’s wrong with Philippine motoring, in one image

No wonder we’re the worst country in the world for driving

What's wrong in the picture? Count 'em. SCREENSHOT FROM DON TAYAG

The above image is a screenshot from a video captured by the dashcam of chef Don Tayag, which he shared on Facebook last week. It obviously shows two adults and one child—presumably a family—on a small motorbike. Tayag, in his caption, said the motorcycle was going against the flow of traffic on NLEX, “coming from Balintawak tollgate.”

Wow. How do we comment on this one? Where do we begin? How about we just count the ways this one picture tells us everything that’s wrong about motoring in the Philippines?

1. Traffic law enforcement is basically nonexistent. First, here are two people riding a motorcycle in broad daylight without helmets—with a toddler to boot. Second, how on earth did they manage to enter the expressway—and then coast along the opposite direction—on what looks to be a sub-400cc motorbike without anyone in authority noticing? The reason countless motorbike riders don’t wear a helmet is that they know they can get away with it. Because in this country, you can get away with pretty much anything—like going against the flow of fast traffic on a highway.

2. Motorcycles are treated like family vehicles. We understand that many households cannot afford to buy a passenger car. We get that. But this doesn’t give anyone a license to use motorbikes like small hatchbacks. How many times have we seen an entire family—with four, five members—traveling on a two-wheeled death rocket? The worst part here is that, in the event of an accident, it’s always the car driver’s fault because the poor scooter is a vulnerable, tiny piece of whizzing contraption. Yep, never mind if it’s going the wrong way.

3. Our road signs are utterly confusing. People who commented on the post pointed out that this motorbike had likely turned back after inadvertently ending up on the expressway. Apparently, it had something to do with either one of two things: the NLEX entry in Balintawak being perplexing, or said entry not being clearly marked with a warning that small-displacement scooters are not allowed. In a nation of poorly educated drivers, directional signs are of paramount importance. Stupid motorists need to be spoon-fed with information so they don’t get lost or crash into each other.

4. Filipino motorists prefer convenience to safety. You’re familiar with these scenes: an SUV backing up hundreds of meters after missing a turn instead of just taking the next U-turn; a sedan dropping off passengers in the middle of the road because the designated unloading area is a little out of the way; a line of vehicles racing behind an ambulance to cut through traffic. And in the case of the motorcycle in question, going the opposite direction (in the fast lane, no less) instead of taking the long but safe route back. If it’s a toss-up between personal convenience and public safety, a typical Pinoy motorist will almost always choose the former.

5. Nobody gives a fuck. We wonder how many car drivers who spotted this motorbike did anything tangible to remedy the situation. Kudos to Mr. Tayag for sharing the incident on Facebook so it could become a valuable talking point for everyone, but we have a feeling that most of the other motorists who saw the motorcycle couldn’t be bothered to even report it at the tollgate. You know why? Because most of us are already desensitized. We’ve become so accustomed to witnessing these things that we think they’re acceptable—an inevitable part of living in the Third World. We need to snap out of our collective indifference and start looking out for each other. That’s the only way we’ll survive the hellhole we’re in.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.