We, the (righteous) drivers
Recently, when Senator Sotto ranted about stupid drivers, he instantly found common currency with a majority of drivers, all of who believe that all the other drivers who break the law, worsen traffic and cause accidents are “stupid”. Since many seem to agree with this conjecture, Sen. Sotto's proposed solutions — retake of the exam, replacement of the exams and “stricter” enforcement of getting a license — got us to think that if indeed 90% of our drivers are stupid (or do stupid things, which is different from being just plain stupid) we cannot dismiss the Senator's and many non-stupid drivers' backwards analysis that the stupid drivers got their licenses through some illegal short cut. Hence the need for an across the board retake for every driver that should ferret out the Kosher from the fakes.
Kettle vs. Pot, black
Hypocrisy aside, let us call the not so stupid drivers (who usually call all other drivers stupid) as the “righteous” (as opposed to plain right) drivers. Now picture this. Newish private car. Nice and neat. Holiday mood. Long Drive. Journey through EDSA to NLEx, SCTEx then Subic. Then back. Start at EDSA.
Space, a finite resource
EDSA, as usual is heavily trafficked because of capacity excess volume, which affects both stupid and righteous drivers. Now heavy traffic threatens to ruin righteous driver's allocated journey time and is now under pressure to get ahead of the “stupid” drivers causing the jams. He (usually a he) now engages "Beast Mode" — cut and revenge cut. Close in to lead cars to prevent merging traffic or Beast Mode 'serial lane grabbing'. Shut off any space for alternate merging. The mentality for the moment is 'survival of the meanest,' Dog-eat-dog, pistols drawn. Both stupid and righteous drivers descend into a free for all cat fight — always a given when traffic turns bad. Laws are broken with impunity because no one is looking. Finally, it's all over. Got away with nary a scratch and it's time to relax on smooth open roads, like NLEx.
Type One, Type Two
On the NLEx, righteous drivers distinguish themselves into two kinds. Type One; now over Beast Mode having cleared the moral driving hell called EDSA, settles to a law abiding 99.0km/h on the overtaking lane or any lane nearest the median. Faster drivers come up behind and tail gate as Type One driver refuses to yield the fast lane, smugly arrogant, unassailably lawful in abiding the national speed limit. Faster drivers try to overtake on the right, but Type One driver refuses to cede his assumed ownership of the fast lane. A tense race develops, and tempers are primed. Road rage is not far behind.
The “other” driver
Then you also have, driver Type Two. Having cleared EDSA, he is hell bent on making up for lost time. But he is stymied by all those “stupid” drivers, doing 99.0km/h, who refuse to yield the fast lane and return to the right. So Type Two resorts to beast mode and begins passing stupid drivers on the right lane. As always, overtaking lane hog “stupid” driver's ego cannot take the “disrespect” of the “stupid” driver passing on the right and refuses to yield the fast lane by “racing” type two driver. Then Type Two driver now engages and accelerates, overtakes and cuts off stupid driver. Type Two then builds up a good lead but ends up hogging the fast lane at a comfortable 140km/h. Unaware to Type Two driver and his now sacrosanct “right of way” of the fast lane, are single headlights, fast approaching his tail. These are the sport bike riders of Club 200 (riders who do 200km/h on their bikes for breakfast) and their headlights are on as required by law and not to intimidate “stupid” drivers who hog the fast lane at 120km/h.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Now this motley crowd of Type One and Type Two righteous drivers and an undetermined number of stupid drivers continue this behavior well into SCTEx. As they arrive at Subic proper, they, almost to a man, prepare to get into the correct lane and become alert to eagle-eyed traffic marshals. And just watch them stop at every Hexagonal Stop sign and Yield at every inverted triangle. Watch them adhere to 39.0km/h once they spot the 40 posted speed limit.
Guess what? Without a doubt, the two types of righteous drivers would have easily scored perfect marks on the official driving exam. Ditto for the rudimentary practical exam if they were even given it — the whole not-so-long 9 yards of it. And as sure as the sun sets in the afternoon, the same righteous drivers will do just as well in any exam retake, barring the onset of Alzheimer's. Getting all the driver exam questions right doesn't mean you won't violate any of them given another time and place.
So there is a clamor for tougher exams, as if this was the silver bullet to slay the beast called stupid drivers? How much tougher do you need the written exam to be? As it is, it is customer convenient to keep accomplishment of the exam no longer than the standard school test of between 10 to 20 minutes for those conversant with English (Filipino, even to those who consider it a primary language, always takes longer to read). Maybe LTO should allow you take the written exam online, 24/7, and show up at the licensing agency with your graded results. Of course validity of your actually having taken the exam will need to be verified.
Exam in several stages
It's the practical exam that can be made tougher, encompassing more driving situations that tests more driving skills, and may be even taken in several stages. In Germany, student driver testing even requires a top speed run on an Autobahn to check on distance calculating skills, braking judgement and overtaking prowess. This is where pretend or substitute exam takers could prove to be a thriving but corrupt business.
But through all of this, there is no exam that determines the driver's random psyche. But, there ought to be. Why? Because passing the exams, again and again, does not guarantee that the driver is willing to obey the law ALL the time. We are sometimes guilty of this. Making a U-turn on a totally empty street but with a solid line in the middle. Or racing with a pedestrian who may just beat you to the Zebra crossing right in front of you. Or doing top speed runs on an expressway, knowing fully well that the zone is speed trap free. Why? Maybe to set a personal best time or to “test” how fast your car can go at such and such time of the year. Driver's have all the excuses for speeding especially when one spots an empty road. Or even parking on a fire lane, just to rush to buy a packet of smokes or grab a tall latte? But more often that not, it is just because we think no one is looking. They are always the “stupid” drivers. It is never us.
It's the prelates, stupid
Now what does this tell us? No driving exam can second guess the driver who is easily dissuaded from obeying the law. The reasons, excuses, motives, etc. for breaking the law are infinite, i.e. opportunity knocks, to beat the other guy in a macho stand off, to get by faster, to show-off who is smarter, etc. Perhaps psychologists have some fancy test to identify these potential law breakers. This is after all a failure in values formation at the Basic education level. Simply, our moral religious leaders prefer to meddle with more glamorous problems (like pushing out democratically elected leaders) to the neglect of reminding everyone, the admittedly humdrum notion of obeying the law at all costs.
Being Autoindustriya's INSIDE MAN, we are never content with just criticizing without offering a solution. Our next posting will introduce a whole new way for LTO to administer the driver's license exams.