The mind: more chaotic than city traffic

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Two years ago, when my mother suffered her third and most serious stroke that left her in the ICU for several weeks, I had to drive to and from the hospital every day.

It was just a short drive both ways, no more than 6 kilometers. But I admit, I couldn’t remember anything when I was behind the wheel then.

My troubled mind was on that feeble woman on the hospital bed, comatose, connected to so many tubes.

The only thing I remembered was that I accidentally bumped a car while we were waiting for our turn at an intersection. I didn’t notice that the car I was driving was slowly inching forward.

Good thing the collision so slight that the other driver merely signaled me to move on.

A year before that, I was on the receiving end. I was driving southbound along Edsa, approaching Guadalupe, when traffic ahead of me slowed.

I applied the brakes, but apparently, the car behind me didn’t, and at 20 kph caused considerable damage to my rear bumper.

The driver, probably in his mid- to late-20s, profusely apologized. He admitted he was on his cellphone talking to his sick mother and didn’t notice that the car ahead of him had stopped.

There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to driving discipline. When one thinks about it, traffic outcomes are just the results of the chaos and interplay of emotions and rational thought that swirl in that complex gray mass behind our eyes.

I wrote an article about a sensitivity exercise conducted by the Land Transportation Office and participated in by public utility bus drivers who had figured in road accidents.

These are just some of the thoughts running in the drivers’ minds at the time of the mishap: hinahanapan ng pera ng asawa (wife demanding money); problema sa kabit (trouble with the mistress); ’di makasiping ang asawa (couldn’t sleep with the wife); delay sa sahod (salary delayed); walang sahod (no salary); utang (debts); pabaon sa anak (allowance of children); diperensya ng sasakyan na di pa naayos (vehicle problems that haven’t been fixed); and damay sa suspension ng kasamahan na nakagawa ng kasalanan (being suspended because of a colleague’s fault).

The results of the exercises, acquired from several batches of 50 drivers, were consolidated from all bus companies who had records of road accidents.

The exercises were called Traffic Safety Management Seminar Para sa Tsuper Program, and conducted between September 2009 and October 2010.

The seminars were later transferred to the University of the Philippines National Center for Transportation Studies (UP NCTS) in Diliman, Quezon City.

The drivers were debriefed to process the accidents, and manuals were given for follow-through activities.

The questions included were:Ano ang pang araw araw na bumabagabag sa ‘yo pag ikaw ay namamasada? Ano ang iyong nararamdaman pagkatapos mong masabi ang bumabagabag sayo? Ano ang iyong nararamdaman matapos mong marinig ang iyong kapwa driver? Ano ang napag-alaman mo ukol sa iyong sarili at sa kapwa mo driver? (What bothers you everyday while driving? How does it feel after you have shared your problem? What do you feel after hearing your fellow drivers’ problems? What did you learn from yourself and from other drivers?)

With these questions, drivers seemed to open up and be more open to self-realization. The replies included: dapat isa lang ang asawa (there should only be one wife); full cooperation [when wife asks for money]; gumagaan ang pakiramdam (feels good inside); pag-iingat sa pagmamaneho (driving defensively); hihingi ng advice sa management (will ask advice from management), and presence of mind.

Seminar participants also realized the need to be more responsible husbands, fathers, and to put a check on their being hotheaded. They admitted to kulang pa sa kaalaman (lack of knowledge), kulang sa disiplina sa sarili (lack of self-discipline), and that ang problema ay dapat iwanan sa bahay, ‘wag dalhin sa trabaho (leave problems at home).

Based on the data, participants coming from 20 bus companies were holders of professional driver’s licenses.

Based on the summarized results, although subject to further analysis, one conclusion called for drivers to be given ample hours of rest.

I never did get to follow the program with then LTO traffic safety division chief Daisy Jacobo. But the samples I got, as mentioned above, were already revealing.

These sensitivity exercises took place three years before the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) had asked city bus drivers to undergo psychiatric tests and acquire certification from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

My take? Why limit such tests to holders of professional driver’s licenses?

Anyone who knows how to operate a motor vehicle and takes to the streets can be both a cause and effect of traffic.

Specifically, the owner of the mind that’s easily distracted is the most dangerous driver.

Gadgets, of course, are easy targets. The World Health Organization even released a statement saying that “the distraction caused by mobile phones is a growing concern for road safety. Drivers using mobile phones are approximately four times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not using mobile phones. Using a phone while driving slows reaction times, and makes it difficult to keep in the correct lane, and to keep the correct following distances. Hands-free phones are not much safer than hand-held phone sets, and texting considerably increases the risk of a crash.”

Some car companies have incorporated a reminder on the LCD monitor of their vehicles. Right after starting the engine, you will read on the monitor: “RA10913 or the Anti-Distracted Driving Act prohibits the driver from using an electronic entertainment to play games, watch movies, surf the internet and other similar act while the vehicle is in motion or temporarily stopped at the traffic.”

The far more tricky part is the distraction that the human mind creates. The concerns that the bus drivers vented is merely the tip of the iceberg.

What worries the mind of the single mom or dad rushing home from work because the yaya suddenly went AWOL?

What seething schemes are playing out in the mind of the employee who just got fired by his boss?

Who can predict what this jilted suitor is about to do next at the intersection?

Who’s really behind the wheel: Emotion or reason? Passion or discipline? Mr. Hyde or Dr. Jekyll? Thor or Loki? The Hulk or Dr. Banner?



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