Beginner’s guide to defensive driving in the Metro

Updated May 24, 2023

The best drivers come from the worst hazards of Manila traffic. Read these tips to survive Metro Manila's dangerous roads.

To say that the road is an unsafe place would probably be the most underrated statement of the century. This is even made truer if you live in Metro Manila.

For budding drivers like you and I, it is important to recognize that getting behind the wheel has certain risks that if left unchecked, can cause serious injuries or worst case scenario, even death. According to an interview in 2017, the daily average of road crashes in Metro Manila alone has reached up to 262 - quite a blood-curdling number. Feeling excited to drive your new car yet?

Perhaps the saddest thing about this fact is that most of these accidents can be avoided. The question is how?

​While it stands true that the behavior of the other motorists cannot be controlled, FACT: There were 209,830 recorded cases of traffic violations in Metro Manila in 2016. What you can control is your behavior when behind the wheel. The following are five safe driving tips that you can follow to ensure a happier and a safer journeys, as you navigate through the concrete jungles of the Metro.

Regular car maintenance ensures road safety

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. This much holds true on the road. 

1. Get your car regularly checked

Prevention is always better than reaction. With mechanical and brake defects being almost at the tippy top of the list for top major road crash causes (just below human error), it is important to check for your car’s overall condition as often as you possibly can. Here is a 10 basic maintenance tips to take care of some vital car components.

There is quite a humorous acronym that sums up the checklist of things that you need to check before you go. Brake, Lights, Oil, Water, Battery, Air, Gas, Engine, Tire, and Self - that is BLOWBAGETS for you. Made famous by Philippine Information Agency back from 6 years ago, new and old drivers alike should ensure that all the things mentioned in the acronym is in the right driving conditions. Sparing a few minutes of your time before work can save you the years of what’s remaining in your life that can potentially be lost if an accident is avoided.

2. Know your traffic rules (and signs), and adhere to them at all costs

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that traffic rules are in place to keep us motorists on the safe side. Sadly, the rules of the road almost become an option to follow for a lot of drivers - and the number of traffic violations supports this. The number one most violated traffic law in Metro Manila since 2014 continues to be disregarding traffic signs. This is not helped by the fact that it is rather easy, and cheap to get away from this violation. The penalty for this offense is 150 pesos, a rather trivial amount to pay yes - but the consequences of disregarding the signs can be so much more, especially when a life is already on the line.

So stop when you need to stop, and continue when you are prohibited to. Don’t force a U-turn if the sign already tells you otherwise. The lives that are potentially in danger would definitely matter more than your appointment that will start in 15 minutes - because these lives can include yours too, if you are not careful. And since not all motorists exercise basic road etiquette, rules can be your best friend in avoiding trouble on the road.

Angry person behind the wheel

Patience is certainly a god-given gift on the road.

3. Keep a cool head - avoid road rage at all costs

Patience is certainly a talent that not a lot of people have. Keeping a cool head on your second hour being stuck in EDSA may not necessarily be an easy feat to accomplish, especially if you woke up three hours early just to make it to your office on time. Nevertheless, the mood that you bring with you on the road should NEVER depend on the current (and to be honest, exponentially worsening) traffic conditions that you suffer through - Every. Single. Day.

A lot of accidents, and truth be told, traffic inconveniences are brought about by some driver’s inability to maintain composure in the road, The safest way to avoid road rage is to yield when not sure who has the right of way. And because you do not know what goes in the mind of an angry stranger behind the wheels, it is always best to just overlook the offense if someone cuts on your lane.

Studies show that men specifically, often have a hard time yielding to one another, and this leads to an unnecessary violence in the road. Remember folks, being gentle and calm in the road does not emasculate you.

>>> Read more: 8 things you can do while stuck in traffic in the Philippines

4. Hands on the wheel. Eyes on the road.

I read a witty quote about driving last time and it says: “If you need to talk to God, pull over and pray. If you want to see him, text while driving.”

In the interest of time, we all want to be master multi-taskers. And in today’s fast-paced world it is quite understandable and necessary to do so- especially with our gadgets and phones in reach. But let me warn you, that driving is one of the many rare examples of a task that you need 100% attention on. If you really need to talk or send someone that urgent e-mail, do not do it in the middle of your drive. Trust me when I say that no task will be as urgent as the potential casualty that may lie ahead as you text while driving. Most accidents are not caused by angry drivers, or the woozy ones. It is caused by people who fail to recognize hazards because they think the attention that they put is enough to keep them and others safe while doing their business on their phones.

Texting while driving

There is unlimited time to check your e-mails and send memes in heaven. Why rush the trip there? 

5. Never forget to buckle up - even on short drives

Be the ‘better safe than sorry’ in the world full of YOLOs. Because accidents are a commonplace on the road, you always want to ensure that if you are involved in one (God forbid), you make sure that you minimize the potential damages. The law of inertia is very powerful- so powerful that it can KILL you, and the passengers that you have with you if you forget fastening those seatbelts.

A guy buckling up before his drive.

This is Greg. Greg buckles up before driving. He is a good guy. Be like Greg. 

Buckling up can reduce the risk of the potential injuries by up to 50 percent. Since Metro Manila is relatively small, and sans traffic, everything seems to be a short drive (if you have the privilege of driving at the ungodly hours of the night, you would realize how near each city in the Metro is, with one another), it is always safe to make buckling up a habit every time you are behind the wheel.

With enough patience, road smarts and discipline, accidents can almost always be avoided. While the conditions in Metro Manila help shape every driver to be the best in their defensive, regardless of where you are from, these tips can keep you safe and happy while enjoying your daily drive.

>>> You may want to read:

Vincci Ross Villanueva

Vincci Ross Villanueva


Vincci graduated from university in 2013 and started his freelance writer career ever since. Before becoming a part-timer writer for Philkotse in 2018, Vincci had been in charge of News, Editorial and Opinion articles at Tribune Post. 

View more