The instructor shows me how to shift the gear stick for automatic car because it is the first time I drive an automatic car. My father's car uses manual gear. Photo taken by ARY during the Mercedes-Benz drive test in Sentul International Circuit in Bogor, West Java.
Dear friends, do you drive? I have had my license since I was 17, but I finally braved the roads of Jakarta when my friend Motzheey visited me in 2003. She coached me from the passenger's seat and guided me through the streets with a Jakarta map on her lap. Hahaha, I'm not good when it comes to navigating the Jakarta's streets.
While I don't drive everyday, I find that there are things you need to be careful about when you're driving in Jakarta. Below are just some of them:
1. The police
A friend says that a police always stops her on the last days of a month. The police, she adds, usually makes up stories about how she violates traffic regulation. In the end, the police will ask for money to keep him quiet about her 'case'. But she usually plays innocent and insists she does not know what the police is talking about. Her strategy has been working out quite good.
"If they insist, I plan to scream,'Harassment!' But thanks God, so far I don't have to do it," she says.
I think all drivers in Jakarta, if not Indonesia, have their share of facing corrupt police during the last days of the month, or the days before the pay day. I also have a story about it, but perhaps I'll save it for next time.
2. The potholes
Jakarta's streets are not always beautiful. In some parts, the streets have potholes. If you are not familiar with the area, you should not drive too fast, because there may be potholes in the area and your vehicles may stuck on the hidden potholes or you get an accident because of them. Safe driving is a must.
3. The criminals
When you're driving in Jakarta, you'd want to avoid being stopped by a red light. Because there will be people coming to you. Sometimes the people are just beggars and street musicians. But if you're not lucky, the people could be bad guys who snatch your stuffs and run. Or do other things that trick you into walking out of your car.
If you think you're safe inside your car, think again: the criminals can steal your rear mirrors.
4. Other vehicles
Last week, M&D and I were stuck on Jakarta's congested roads during our way to my cousin's wedding. After their retirement in 2001, they barely went to Jakarta, so they were surprised to see so many cars and motorcycles. I am already used to the traffic, so I play it cool:).
Just remember that although you are a safe driver, it does not mean other people do the same. There are many people doing reckless driving. Stay alert.
5. The broken traffic signs
Not all traffic signs work properly in Jakarta. Enough said.
6. The construction works
When there is a construction work on a road (and it happens quite often!), it will definitely cause traffic jams. And traffic jams in Jakarta are just nasty. I mean you can be trapped there for one-two hours.
7. The force majeur
During the rainy seasons, floods are a regular thing. You should remember the flood-prone areas and avoid them at all cost. Also, rain comes with strong winds, and there are cases where the big trees fall over cars and motorcycles.
8. The peak hours
People leave their homes at 6 a.m., have lunch at 12 p.m. and head for homes at 4 p.m. Add two hours to those hours and avoid the streets during the time.
Drive safe, people!