Wednesday, May 2, 2007


A few years ago, in another Far Eastern country, I climbed into a taxi in a big metropolitan city. Before I could sit down, the taxi was going 120 KPH. Buildings, women, children and dogs whizzed by the windows. My life flashed before my eyes. Parachuting out of an airplane was not as terrifying as that short taxi ride.

In a big European city, I got stuck in traffic. The taxi driver merely drove on the sidewalk. People were jumping into doorways to get out of his way.
On a big Caribbean island I got stuck in a traffic jam on a major highway. My driver just drove on the grass along the aide of the road. On that same island I saw a man shot over a parking place.

So when people come to me and complain about the traffic here in the Philippines, I have to smile. I guess it is a matter of how you look at it.

In America, on average, 41,000 people are killed on our highways every year. One out of every four of those deaths is caused by "anger". Over 10,000 people killed every year just because someone got mad. We have even created a special label for the phenomenon. It is called "Road Rage". What is even more frightening, 80% of American drivers admit to being "angry" while they are driving and four out of five of those drivers carry a gun. I have had bullet holes put in the trunk of my car.

I do admit I am very concerned about vehicles here that drive at night without lights. Words can not express how dangerous that is. Every time I see a small baby being carried on a motorcycle I cringe. If there is an accident that precious baby will have no chance of survival.

Currently the hot topic is the pending enforcement of the helmet laws. I am in favor of anything that will save lives but I doubt the enforcement of this law will do much to preserve life. Most of the helmets in use here are not very effective and there are no helmets for babies. Also I understand not everyone will be required to wear a helmet only the vehicle operator. It is worthy of note that several American states have repealed their helmet laws. They found that the helmets often cause more accidents than they prevented. First, helmets often limit your vision and block your hearing, increasing danger not reducing it. Beyond that, they sometimes give the operator a false sense of security that cause him to go faster. Higher speeds mean greater injury.

For me the traffic here is really not that bad. It is sort of like a "symphony in chaos". In all that chaos is a certain level of "civility and friendliness". People stop and let others go first. I rarely see anyone waving a clinched fist and screaming at another driver. The answer seems to be relax and learn to go with the flow.

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