Have you had it with the heavy traffic around Metro Manila? Do you feel that despite the traffic management programs launched by the national government, which has now been taken over by the local government, nothing really works? Have you given up hope?

Some traffic technocrats have thought that the simplest solution to the traffic problem is to reduce the volume of vehicles on the road. The MMDA has used its vehicle reduction scheme for years now, but it hasn't really licked the problem. Because simply put, this means that you cannot use your vehicle on a certain day. So, the more moneyed members of the community just went out and bought another car to use on that day when their other car is banned. Thus, on no-coding Saturdays, traffic volume is increased by almost twice as much because some households have more than one vehicle to use for weekend trips. It turned out that the solution (vehicle volume reduction) created another problem (increased vehicle population).

The MMDA is currently thinking of other ways to solve the problem, to the point that they are thinking of ramming down the gates of exclusive villages so that the general public can use their roads. The Supreme Court has already decided on this controversial issue during the term of former chairman Jejomar Binay, so I don't think the current chairman Bayani Fernando can do anything except beat his chest. Besides, he might disenfranchise several influential families who live in these exclusive villages and get into trouble with the supporters of his supporter, President GMA.

Thus, to an average Filipino trapped in the rush hour traffic, the traffic mess really looks hopeless. The congestion is at the point where being late is becoming reasonable, if not expected. But have you done your part in helping clear the traffic? "Who? Me?" you may ask. Well, yes, you. You are an important component in ensuring that traffic becomes manageable, even during rush hours. Please allow us to list down some of the ways that each of us can contribute to better traffic flow.

1. Avoid the rush.

It is observed that traffic builds up during morning rush hour, which is around 7 to 10 am, and during early evening from 5 until 7 pm. If you don't need to go out during these times, then stay home. One less car on the road is one less car in the traffic grid. But if you need to go to work in an 8-to-5 environment, try to go to work earlier and avoid the rush hour traffic grid. Your attendance sheet will look better. If you can convince your boss for flexible time schedules, then you can also leave earlier. However, if your job cannot adjust time schedules, then you'll have leave later to avoid being part of the early evening build-up. Just think of the overtime pay you'll be getting.

2. Plan your route.

Generally, traffic builds up on roads leading to schools and offices. On weekends, traffic build up on roads leading to churches, groceries, and malls, especially during those weekend sale promotions. So, if you're not going to these places, avoid the roads leading to them. But everyone needs to go to church, get the groceries or shop, right? If you want to do so and avoid traffic, do it on lean days or early hours. Go to church at 6 am on Sunday and you'll find it's easier to find parking. God will appreciate it too because you'll be more attentive. Shop or do your groceries on a weekday, preferably after office hours while waiting for the traffic to subside. Or go out of town on weekends, where traffic is lighter. The green scenery will soothe your senses and you deserve a break from the stress of living in the city.

3. Conserve your resources.

Carpooling can effectively take some cars off the road if given a chance. If you have four neighbors in your village who work near your office or if you have officemates who live nearby or along the route to your office, you can just pool together and use one car for each day of the week. Imagine, if all five of you have cars, you'll only use your car once a week and save on gas and lower your car's mileage. It will also increase your car's resale value if the mileage is low. Consequently, you lower the metropolitan vehicular volume by four cars. If you're the only one with a car in your pool, they can chip in for gasoline and save on their commuting costs, while you save on fuel costs and help decongest commuter traffic. If you can gather enough people for a carpool, then it would be a more viable alternative than commuting. And if more people consider carpooling, the vehicular volume can also go down drastically. A selfless act can indeed go a long, long way.

4. Follow the rules.

No Parking, No Left Turn, No Right Turn on Red Light, One Way, No Counter Flow, No Loading/Unloading, No Tricycles on Main Road, Pedestrian Crossing. These traffic signs and other rules, including traffic laws were installed for everyone to follow. They are not there as suggestions, but as rules. Thus, no one is exempted, including you. Unfortunately, the lax enforcement of these rules and the confusion surrounding these rules (attention: MMDA Traffic Enforcers and PNP Traffic Management Group) make it easy for everyone to violate even the most menial traffic rules. Add to the fact that most enforcers lack proper training, some are not dedicated to their duties and there are no shifting of duties and schedules among the enforcers to allow them to work more efficiently. For example, the evening traffic snarl sometimes extends after 8pm because no traffic enforcers can be found working after their office hours and traffic rules are blatantly violated by almost everyone. If you find yourself violating traffic rules and getting stuck in traffic, you have no one to blame but yourself. Like what they say, "It takes one man to make a difference."

5. Respect the siren.

Do you know that by law, only the President, the Vice President, the Senate President, the House Speaker and emergency vehicles (police cars, ambulances and fire trucks) are legally allowed to use sirens, or what we call "wang-wangs"? Not even the PNP Chief can use the siren unless there's an emergency. But because of our Martial Law upbringing, sirens became a symbol of power. Most politicians slice through the traffic with their police escorts and their convoy of heavily armed bodyguards. Some have scions driving around in vehicles with Federal flashing lights, loud sirens and un/official "8" plate numbers. That's why they never felt the traffic snarl because they were oblivious to it. Unfortunately, we also have a bevy of wannabes who don flashing lights and sirens so they can snake themselves out of traffic, too. With flashers and sirens available at your friendly car accessories store and sold without regulation, sirens are wailing almost everywhere. I wish someone would make a siren that sounds like a loud "So what?!" that I can flash back to these wannabes.

6. Share the road.

Like it or not, the roads were made for everyone, not just you. You have to share it with pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks and buses. As a rule, you should respect the vehicle that's smaller than your vehicle. Thus, as a car driver, you have to be more courteous around motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians. As a motorcyclist, you have to respect bicyclist and pedestrians. And so the food chain goes. Sharing the road also entails giving way. For example, in an intersection where there's no traffic light or traffic cop, you're supposed to give way alternately while keeping the intersection open. Unfortunately, most drivers do not know this rule, which is why our intersections are clogged. Indeed, it would take a strong, strong man to really apply this one.

7. Try something different.

If your office is just 5 minutes away, walking to work instead of driving is an economical and healthy option. But to some, walking, or even traveling for a few hundred meters without a car is inconceivable. Our culture is so hooked on cars that we consider our cars as the extension of our personality. (Else you wouldn't be logged on to autoindustriya.com.) If you can't do without mechanical conveyance and your daily commute is only 15 to 20 minutes away, riding a scooter or a motorcycle is an alternative that's not only fun, but also cost-effective. You'll also be helping free up a large part of the real estate since the area occupied by a bike is a lot smaller than that of a car.

8. Discipline, discipline, discipline.

This is really the key to our traffic problems. Even without heavy enforcement, the traffic problem can be licked if we all pitch in and do our part. Only through personal discipline will we see the light at the end of our heavily congested tunnel. We could discipline ourselves first and help decongest the traffic, rather than wait for the government to discipline erring drivers because it may take forever. (Or a strong political will, but I won't bet on it.)

On our part, AutoIndustriya.com shall be vigilantly keeping an eye on our individual driving disciplines as much as we'll be reporting on other activities that will help decongest our roads. So, drive defensively and help clear the traffic mess.