Friday, May 05, 2006

Accident and Aftermath


On thing that always amazes foreigners here, who are used to more proactive policing, is the brazen way in which drivers simply commit traffic violations right in front of policemen, who simply ignore them. Yesterday I happened upon an accident near my house. As I waited behind a long line of cars, two cars sped down the opposite lane, went to the front, waited in the opposite lane for the light to turn green (thus blocking all right turns from the crossing traffic), then made a right turn across the front of the entire line of waiting cars. Because of the high volume of traffic turning left, cars on our side of the road were pinned to their places and forced to wait until the next green before they could move. This of course leads to the other question: what kind of mentality could behave in such a manner, both towards others, and with a policeman right in front of them?


The next red brought a motorcycle here crossing the street illegally, against the light, as the policeman next to him writes up his report between the two vehicles, the white car and the green car. You'd think that the two damaged vehicles might act as a warning to the errant motorcyclist, but to that driver evidently they are merely an impediment.


Here he speeds through the crossing traffic, some of which has stopped to gawk.


At last my turn comes, and I plunge into the maelstrom. Scooters ignore the lights as they weave through the crossing traffic.


The police were measuring along this side of the road, indicating that at least one of the vehicles was traveling on the same road as myself, though in the opposite direction. My wife and I puzzled for quite some time over how the cars ended up in their final positions.

12 comments:

shavenpope said...

But Micheal, those two are obviously important individuals going about business of life-and-death importance. It's only outsiders like us that cannot see this fact.

huoguo said...

Maybe there's something of the "You're not important to me/not my kin - so you dont count" in Taiwanese/PRC attitudes ot others - certainly on the road at least. Also - no eye contact = invisibility.

At least in a cab you can close your eyes!

Michael Turton said...

huoguo, that's the way I see it to. There's no civic culture, and no place where people recognize responsibilities to strangers. Either you're kin or you are OUTSIDE.

Michael

andres said...

it's organized chaos

Peter said...

I see incomprehensibly stupid driving and parking every day. I've come to the conclusion that in many cases these people are living inside a bubble of selfishness that is so dense, so utterly impenetrable that it never even crosses their tiny minds that they are severely inconveniencing those around them by their actions. It's total and complete unawareness.

Their brains never even get to 'Could I, or could I not, care less?'

MJ Klein said...

how many times have we been walking along, only to have a scooter slide right into a parking space immediately in front of us, so close that it requires us to stop walking in order to avoid being hit? it would not occur to any Taiwanese to delay for the 2 seconds required to allow us to pass - oh no - no one waits for anything. if you even try to explain that concept you will be met with total incomprehension. you are the crazy one, not them.

the comment about the eye contact is so true. Taiwanese walk around with such tunnel vision that i am contantly amazed how well they function. just the other day i left my friend's home to go to the 7-11 on foot. during my absence, his wife also went to the 7-11 by another route. i was standing at the counter when she walked in. she spoke with the counter person and stood there for a full 30 seconds before she realized that she was standing beside me. mind you, i don't "blend" at all! she honestly didn't notice me because the radar is turned completely off. you can't expect a police officer to be any different.

tclyde said...

"When in Rome" is the way I look at traffic in Taiwan. Chances are that I would not run a red light or drive down the wrong side of the road in North America in fear of a fine or increased insurance premiums. The problems is not the people driving the car or scooter rather how traffic laws are enforced in Taiwan.

el spencer said...

i'm kind of on the same wavelength as tclyde. [when in rome...]
i actually enjoy the freedom one has on the roads here.
as long as you don't get caught...

STOP_George said...

.
.
.
Michael said:

huoguo, that's the way I see it to. There's no civic culture, and no place where people recognize responsibilities to strangers. Either you're kin or you are OUTSIDE.

You're bang-on, Michael.

That's the very first thing I noticed, socially, about the Taiwanese when I arrived here 4 years ago.

As a Canadian, I am very used to "politeness" and Canadians (sometimes obsessive) need to care about how others view you -- strangers and friends being of little difference.

Here, there seems to be little regard for this "civic culture" as you describe. If you are a stranger -- and in a routine public activity -- you are pretty much non-existant.

That said, for caucasian foreigners like myself -- there is a implicit respectfulness because my skin is white and my hair is blond. But I see it all the time with the Taiwanese. The most startling evidence of this is how drivers react to an approaching ambulance. They don't.
.
.
.

STOP_George said...

.
.
.
Peter said:

I've come to the conclusion that in many cases these people are living inside a bubble of selfishness that is so dense, so utterly impenetrable that it never even crosses their tiny minds that they are severely inconveniencing those around them by their actions.

I'm sorry, Peter -- but I find these remarks totally ethnocentric and borderline racist. Please be careful!

There may be no "civic culture" as Michael describes it, but this does not equate to the general conclusion you've made about the Taiwanese being "selfish" or of "inferior intelligence" to your own.

Indeed, this is a completely false assumption. The Taiwanese that I've had the pleasure to be with are some of the most compassionate, empathetic people I've ever known in the world.

There are social rules and daily rituals in every society. I have found that the Taiwanese social culture is focused almost exclusively on the family / close friends and does not spend a lot time worrying about social nicities when it doesn't involve this aspect fo their lives.

Is it wrong?

Who the hell are we to say it is?

.
.
.

Ed en Vadrouille said...

I ride 12km daily in Tainan city center by bicycle.
The only solution to that kind of problem? An agressive riding and a powerful horn (the kind the ice cream trolley has)...

Carol said...

I hope no one was seriously injured from the accident. I think the drivers should be disciplined to have a responsible attitude towards traffic.