An open letter to the car that almost hit me

An open letter to the car that almost hit me

/ 05:08 AM April 01, 2024

Dear Sir:

I am writing this just a few hours after our scary encounter, which I am sure neither of us wanted or expected. As I was crossing the pedestrian lane, confident in the signal that showed I had 25 seconds left, you sped by on my right side from the intersecting road, nearly hitting me and another couple. I should have taken note of your plate number but I was too stunned. What I cannot forget, however, is the smug expression you had on your face, seemingly unaware that you had just narrowly avoided what could have been a tragic turn of events. Perhaps you were in a bad mood because you were rushing to an important appointment or you were having a heavily stressful day. I do hope it is not because you see pedestrians as mere inconveniences.

Years ago, while attending a conference in Melbourne, I realized how sacred the Walk signal is in other countries. While walking with my fellow participants from our hotel to the restaurant where we will be having dinner, one of them asked me why I always rush when crossing the pedestrian lane even if there was ample time to cross leisurely. “You have to trust that the cars will stop for you,” she said with the confidence of someone who grew up in a country where every driver abides by this social contract.


I did not have the energy to tell her that in the Philippines, crossing the street feels like an agaw-buhay moment at times. The law states that vehicles must yield right-of-way to “a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.” But in unguarded crossing lanes, some motorists treat the act of slowing down for pedestrians as a favor rather than a requirement. Crossing in traffic-light-regulated areas could be just as challenging. It is common for cars and motorcycles to stop directly on the crosswalk, forcing people to walk around the cars. This not only slows down the flow of pedestrians but also puts them at unnecessary risk.


I am writing to you not from a place of anger or retribution, but from a desire to share a perspective that I hope you’ll carry with you: Every decision made in the driver’s seat has the potential to change lives irrevocably. A 2021 report by the Philippine Statistics Authority highlighted a 39-percent increase in road traffic fatalities in the Philippines over the last decade, with the number of deaths climbing from 7,938 in 2011 to 11,096. The World Health Organization (WHO) also reported that males constituted at least 84 percent of these fatalities, and that road traffic injuries are a leading cause of death among children. Vulnerable road users, including motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, were identified as particularly at risk. In 2013, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority records showed that there were 16 cases of pedestrian-related accidents daily, with students making up one-fourth of the victims.

It would be unfair not to acknowledge that many pedestrians are also part of the problem. I am sure you have also had frustrating experiences with jaywalkers. Instead of using the designated areas or waiting for the proper moment, some choose to cross busy streets unpredictably, disregarding the oncoming traffic. This not only endangers their own lives but also poses a risk to drivers who might have to make sudden, unsafe maneuvers to avoid hitting them.

I would like to think that the irresponsible behavior, on both sides, is not born out of malice but rather emerges from various cultural, infrastructural, and regulatory factors that shape the driving ethos in the country. For instance, in the particular crossing lane where our paths intersected, only the traffic moving straight is halted when the pedestrian light turns green. Cars turning from the intersecting street are still allowed to turn, converging directly with the crossing pedestrians. Although you should have slowed down earlier, I can also understand how flawed systems and unclear rules leave much to interpretation and personal judgment, both for motorists and those of us on foot.

Last year, the Department of Transportation partnered with WHO and other organizations to launch the Philippine Road Safety Action Plan 2023-2028. Guided by a target of at least a 35-percent reduction in road traffic deaths by 2028, the road map identified various initiatives that address the safety and mobility needs of vulnerable road users, including public awareness programs and stricter enforcement of laws on road safety.

These efforts are commendable and essential. However, we do not have to wait for the implementation of these programs to review and relearn our responsibilities as drivers and pedestrians in upholding road safety. I know that it is easy, in the distractions of our day-to-day life, not to put too much thought into the well-being of the strangers we encounter on the road every day. But it is worth remembering that a moment of patience can prevent a lifetime of regret. And by committing to be more vigilant and considerate, we can play our small part in ensuring that our shared roads lead us not toward conflict, but toward mutual respect and safety.

Here’s to safer crossings and more mindful journeys ahead.


The Person You Almost Didn’t See


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TAGS: opinion, pedestrians

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