Driving in the Philippines Part 3 of 3

Southeast Asia isn't known for having the best drivers in the world. I was recently assigned to work in the Philippines for 6 months. My company provided me with a rental car for the duration, and mayhem ensued. Here are some of the things I observed while there. This is part three of a three-part series.

Speed Limit? What Speed Limit?

Speed limits practically don't exist in the Philippines. Most roads have no posted speed limit. This isn't a problem because roads without a speed limit are usually so congested that going faster than 20 MPH isn't possible. Remember that high-speed chase in Manila in that Borne movie? That couldn't have happened.

The roads that do have posted speed limits fall into two categories: private tollways and public roads. Police in the Philippines don't have radar guns (as far as I could tell), so they can't really enforce speed limits. Private tollways have their own traffic patrol officers, but there aren't many of them, and they probably don't have radar guns either. Speeding was exceedingly common from what I saw, yet I did not hear of a single speeding citation being issued.

Wrong Way Lefts

I'm really really surprised I didn't see more head-on collisions in the Philippines. It was somewhat common to see cars cross over the double-yellow center line several hundred yards before the driveway they were turning in to. I guess they figure that way they can always use the far-left lane as a reversible lane. This always freaked me out when I saw it because it always seemed like it happened when the wrong-wayer was coming my way.

In Manila, I saw this maneuver performed en masse. I was in a taxi stopped at a red light, waiting to turn left. The traffic light was one where both directions of traffic get green left-turn arrows before the green circle goes up. Well, when our side's green arrow went up, about ten or twenty cars jumped out of the left turn lane, went down the road a couple hundred feet in the wrong direction, and then turned left at the intersection.

Blatant Disregard for Motorcycle Safety

Motorcycles are cheap in the Philippines. Really cheap. They're not like the motorcycles you're used to seeing in America. They're tiny. 100-200cc engines. Tires that look like they belong on a mountain bike. You get the idea.

Filipinos don't wear shoes very often. The footwear du jour over there is the "slipper". It's more commonly known in the US as a thong sandal. I'm not even sure a lot of Filipinos actually own anything but slippers. Anyway, 9 out of 10 motorcyclists wear slippers while riding. That's some poor foot protection in the case of a crash.

It gets worse. Motorcycles get overloaded almost as often as jeepneys with three or four people on a bike. Sometimes they're even used to transport things like ladders or lumber. It's pretty ridiculous to see the amount of stuff you can transport on a motorcycle with a little determination.

The worst thing I saw on a motorcycle was a woman riding on the back holding a Subway drink cup in one hand and her helmet in the other. She wasn't wearing her helmet, the motorcycle was on a highway, and she had no way to hold on.

Want to read more about driving in the Philippines? Check out the other two parts of this series:

Photo by James Manners