Canadian Andrew Younghusband is the host of the ‘Dont Drive Here‘ series on Discovery Channel where he challenges himself by driving in places where people usually say you shouldn’t drive at. I had never seen the show or even heard of it until I saw this video. Here are a few thoughts:
Andrew drove several ‘professional’ vehicles starting with a tricycle, an ordinary car and a stretch limo all in preparation for his ultimate goal, a jeep plying a difficult route along the Ermita and Intramuros area. If he wasn’t driving he was testing out how it is to live with our traffic system by helping a small family commute with their groceries, applying for and getting a driver’s license or being a traffic policeman in a very busy intersection, again somewhere in Manila in what looks like Taft or Quiapo I think.
As I expected the most difficult to drive is the tricycle and the jeep both of are the most common vehicles there are here. This is of course ironic because since they’re the most common you would think their evolution would have allowed them to be more comfortable and easier to drive by now, but clearly that is not the case.
As also expected the show depicts driving in Manila as a chaotic, crazy experience which of course sells the show. Andrew does sell that idea sometimes but he really doesn’t have to do too much. Anyone who drives around here regularly don’t only know it, we live it, breathe it and smell it everyday it comes as a surprise that anyone even mentions it anymore.
Traffic, pollution, terrible drivers, uneducated pedestrians, the lack of usable sidewalks and the uselessness of traffic lights and regular ignorance of rules and regulations has been ingrained into our culture so much that it’s become part of our life – something you do if you live in the city. If you don’t occasionally run a red light or cross the street on a no crossing zone you’re considered the odd man out. Try standing on a pedestrian lane waiting for a green light to cross in any intersection. You’ll feel like an idiot being the only one following the rules while everyone else including decently dressed office personnel makes a mad dash across the busy street. Some of them might even giggle at how law abiding you are.
So although I can easily say I know all of this already, Andrew’s show is still entertaining because it allows me to recollect just how screwed up things are. The craziness of the answers to the LTO driving exam already being pasted on the wall have escaped me after years of shrugging my shoulders at government inefficiency.
And while there is a laundry list of faults starting from how poorly educated drivers are to how inefficient and badly maintained jeeps and tricycles are, the most consistent reason why things are the way they are is simple: over population.
The fact that the traffic police’s main goal is not to apprehend law breakers despite blatant violations in order to keep the traffic flowing speaks volumes. The idea of maintaining order is daunting not necessarily because the public is less able to grasp such things, but simply because there are far too many vehicles for too few roads.
I’m not justifying bad driving of course. If you run a red light you should be ticketed. But the situation has become so that running a red light is the least of our problems. The issue that has to be addressed is that there are so many cars resulting in so many varied violations that running after each one will only take time away from keeping the traffic flowing – something that the traffic cop knows all too well, because to him that is more important than anything.
I’m glad I watched Andrew’s show if only because of that. Here’s the video in full: