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Saturday, February 23, 2008

More About Driving in Davao

I received from a comment from one of Mia asking if I have driven here in Davao I decided to add to the last article from my view.

When I moved here my fiancée Elena told me I must have a car. I would have been happy just riding Jeepneys and taxis. It would probably been cheaper too.

Recently gasoline came down in price to 44.40 pesos per liter which is $4.19 per gallon. Also with all the traffic even my little Kia only gets about 20 miles per gallon.

Some of the main roads are in such a condition you wonder if you have a low or flat tire. Off the main roads you will find much worse conditions too.

Where we live we are on a dirt road. When not raining the car every morning is covered in dust. When raining there is mud pools, some so big it would make a pig squeal in excitement.

There are also roads that once were concrete but now just broken pieces in all different angles.
To driving here, there is very little driver courtesy. Being a good driver from America, I have the habit of staying in the right lane except for passing. Here the right lane is constantly stopping for a Jeepney letting off or taking on passengers. If in left lane you get stopped when a driver needs to turn left.

If you need to change lanes not many drivers will slow down to let you in. Same if you’re trying to turn onto a main road. You need to nose your way in carefully and hope someone stops to let you in. It is especially difficult if you need to make a left turn onto a main 4 lane road.

In America when there is traffic trying to merge into another road, they do what is called “weaving.” That is when the drivers alternate letting cars merge. One merges then one going straight goes and so on and so on. Not here, once one goes, all the cars behind them follows through. The same is at an intersection, once on forces his way in, all the traffic behind follows, then as the last car makes the turn, any cars wanting to turn from the oncoming traffic squeezes in and all of them make their turn.

If you come to a major intersection and there is a left turn lane with a working traffic light, the turning lane here is used as an extra lane to wait to go straight once the light turns green.

If there is a big backup of traffic, usually seen Sundays when people are getting off or on Jeepneys at Church, the drivers take over the left lane of oncoming traffic. That then causes a backup from the other direction waiting for the drivers to get back over after the tie-up.

There are also bicycles with some kind of wheeled storage on the front, some are for small deliveries, some selling ice cream and some that go around picking up recycle items. These can be found peddling down the main road slowing traffic.

Surprisingly there are not a lot of accidents, but if there is one, or there is a disabled car with a flat tire or engine trouble, the backup will be for miles or kilometers.

Some major intersections have traffic cops directing traffic, but most are ignored and they end up causing gridlock.

There are also vehicles still using leaded gasoline here and also there is emission test centers but I do not know who gets tested and if there is any forced repairs since you see many vehicles sending out plumes of black smoke.

Good thing I have air conditioning in the car because the smell of exhaust is so bad your eyes will burn. Now I know why so many pass away here with respiratory problems.

Parking is hard here except malls some businesses parking slots in front of their business and have uniformed guard’s. They will try to stop traffic to help a customer back out of the slot into traffic.

So to paraphrase an old saying “Driving here is not a chore, it is an Adventure”

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