Friday, October 1, 2010

Crash Bang Scoot Drift

"Crash and Bang " is a course at the Foreign Service Institute [FSI] that prepares overseas staff and their families for driving in conditions where it might be prudent to wear protective gear inside your vehicle. If FSI had a course for driving in Manila they would call it "Scoot and Drift."

Manila's reputation for horrendous traffic is well earned. The money that we were saving by being a one car family will soon be spent on hiring a driver. However, we are not hiring a driver because the traffic is dangerous.

Manila is so congested there isn't room for reckless driving. Its drivers could be compared to small town USA drivers, but packed like sardines and with crazy buses, jeepneys, and scooters thrown in for fun.

When driving in Manila it is important to keep your eyes forward. You are responsible for the front of your car and the back end of the car in front of you, and if you spend too much time looking in your rear view mirror you will cause an accident. And regardless of the official laws, it will be your fault because you weren't obeying the "rules."

If you are unable to tolerate drifters, do not try to drive in Manila. According to the "rules," the best way to get across four lanes of traffic is to just go. Go slowly, but without hesitation--the people whose bumpers are behind yours are expected to let you through.

If you need to get into a lane, just go. I call this "scooting" because you can't go fast enough to dart. You scoot into a space, and then you sit. When scooting, never, ever, ever play chicken with a bus or a scooter. The buses know they are the biggest vehicles on the road, and the scooter drivers are just plain loco.

Considering the size of the city, there is a relatively low incidence of traffic fatalities in Manila, and most of those accidents involve scooters. Because they are NUTS. I haven't tried driving outside of Pasay and Malate so I can't speak for the driving conditions in Makati and beyond, but from what we've observed, it's not impossible to drive oneself, but doing so would require excessive amounts of Gatorade and chocolate.

Overall, unless you have an incredible amount of patience, hiring a driver will probably improve your quality of life, especially if you live in Makati or the Fort, or are driving outside the city during the work week. In the meantime, I will continue to pat myself on the back for deciding to keep our large vehicle and sell our smaller car. Size does matter.

The commuter buses in Manila are the size of large tour buses.  

 Jeepneys are about the size of a standard SUV.


  1. And here I thought all the drifting happened in Tokyo. That's what the movie told me.

  2. Sounds like Cairo, whatever happens behind the spot where your side-mounted mirrors are supposed to be attached... they do get knocked off frequently... is not your responsibility!