Friday, February 27, 2015

Driving in Manila for Foreigners - Tip # 5: Forget the concept of having "the right of way".

In most countries, there are existing rules of the road and driving etiquette. For the most part, drivers follow the rules and maintain some semblance of order. This includes the notion of having "the right of way" in certain driving situation when interacting with other drivers on the road. Now, the concept of having "the right of way" is a simple one. For example, at an intersection where there are cars trying to cross, generally the right of way belongs to the vehicle that arrived at the intersection first. Once that car traverses the intersection the right of way then transfers to the car that arrived at the intersection after the first car. Simple, fair and effective.

However, this is Manila; where nothing is simple, fair nor effective. To drive the streets of Manila successfully you'll need to completely throw out the notion of someone having the right of way. There is no right of way here. If you assume that you have the right of way in a given situation where you would have the right of way in a different country, you'll be quickly testing the strength of the bumpers, fenders, or other body panels of your car.

Here in Manila, you make your own right of way. I like to refer to it as imparting your will on other drivers through the calculated use of your vehicle. You don't wait for other people to let you in or allow you to go. You make it so they almost have no choice but to allow you to proceed. How do I mean that? Say you're on a smaller cross street that intersects a larger street and you need to make a left across traffic onto that larger street. If you wait for an opening, or for another driver to let you in you'll be waiting for a long, LONG time. No one here is just going to let you in on their own accord. So, what do you do? Basically, you'll inch your car forward little by little as cars pass until the point where the oncoming car has no choice but to stop and let you go or they risk a collision. Once they stop to let you in, you'll have to do the same to any other lanes of traffic that you need to cross or merge into.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, that's how other people will drive here and this is how you must drive here as well to survive. And despite the perceived chaos and insanity here there actually IS some semblance of order or a "way" that people drive here. Take this exact instance as a good example of this "order" as well. After you "make your right of way" in the above example, the other drivers that have been forced to stop will typically wait and let the cars that may be behind you to go for a bit as well as a kind of "courtesy" instead of bullying back in once you have gone. See, driver's in Manila aren't that cutthroat.

So like I away with the notion of "right of way". Here you have to grab the bull by the horns and make it your right of way. Just remember that other drivers will be trying to do this as well. As long as you keep some balance between your aggressiveness and defensiveness like I mentioned in my previous post, you should be perfectly fine.

No comments: