Aug 29, 2008

[Metro] Fundamental Traffic Discipline

A picture of Avenida Faria Lima in São Paulo, ...Image via Wikipedia There are numerous sayings and jokes about the irrelevance of traffic laws in many cases. One has to admit that they remain to be some of the most prevalent forms of legal compliance that we are faced with day after day and yet also some of the rules that are most blatantly and commonly violated or broken.

Take jay-walking for example. The simple need to cross the streets at the pedestrian lanes alone and to follow the Walk / Don't Walk lights accordingly seem to be one of the biggest challenges we face as a race - and I'm referring to humankind as a whole, practically speaking and not just us Filipinos.

I've always striven to follow these laws, not so much because I have a big respect of the letter of the law but more because my geeky mind works in weird ways and I have often exhibited somewhat OCD tendencies time and time again.

Stop smirking, I can see you!

Anyway, more often than not I end up finding myself alone on the curb as everyone else darts across the street when the light is still clearly red and saying Don't Walk. Quite the conundrum, to say the least. Thus in these idle moments as I wait for the lights to change, I've spent a lot of time thinking about why I was alone on the sidewalk.

Traffic laws in all forms are usually some those treated as less than important than the big ones like the ones about murder, government corruption and tax evasion given their limited impact. While they're designed to ensure the safety of the population for the most part and to ensure the continuous flow of traffic in order to facilitate effective travel, many people feel they're smarter than that and don't need laws to protect them. Yes, they're pretty much of the believe that their wits and agility alone can help them avoid accidents.

It's partly arrogance, at least from my perspective, that pushes people to take risks by crossing the street when the lights aren't green yet or making U-turns with their cars where they shouldn't if only for their own convenience and their belief that nothing wrong will happen to them.

This kind of thinking when taken on a larger scale sort of speaks of why we're so bad with laws in general. We're constantly in a battle with our own laws trying to find ways around them for our on convenience, usually invoking limited impact or the scale of the crime versus the potential benefits as a possible justification. The challenge, of course, is that we don't exactly have a good track record either for seeing things on a larger scale in order to determine the full impact of our actions - this is why the creation and maintenance / evaluation of laws is something that we entrust to a large group of lawmakers instead of just select individuals.

Before we start questioning our government and pointing out what we think to be wrong, it helps to first make sure we ourselves are living the lives we expect of our officials. Even for things as "simple" and fundamental as traffic laws, it would certainly help to see that we can at least follow those decently enough.

Besides, I'm sick of being alone at the cross-walks.


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