May 26, 2010

To have guilt, or not to have guilt – that is the question!

As you are no doubt aware, I was in an accident a little than a week ago. Not a serious accident, but an accident nonetheless. A person was not paying attention, or in a hurry, I don’t know and don’t really care. The outcome was he rammed into me, sending me and my scooter into the middle of an intersection.

After a bit of negotiation, we came to an arrangement. On Saturday last, I received the agreed upon amount, and as far as I’m concerned, that part of it is over.

But you know, there is this little bit of guilt still hanging over my head. Was I in the right to request such a large sum. Now, for most people in Taiwan, 40,000nt is a lot of money. For some, it represents almost two months wages! Many people that I’ve spoken to about this, think the amount is a lot as well. So why am I feeling a bit guilty?

I know that if this type of thing had happened in Canada or the USA, no question, 99% chance we’d be going to court. The amount would be a hell of a lot higher. Why? Are we North Americans greedy? Do we not care about what the other person is feeling or whether they can even afford such an amount?

When something like this happens in Taiwan, from my understanding, usually people just settle up, covering the cost of any repair to the scooter. And then I get to thinking – why is this?

A few years ago, I was listening to ICRT, the English-language radio station in Taiwan. English language… hmmm… about 60% of what I hear on that station is in Chinese. Not that there aren’t already about 10,000 radio stations on this small island as it is. Whatever…

They were talking about scooters in Taiwan. I’m not exactly sure of the precise numbers given, but a few figures did stick out in my mind, and still do to this day.

They first of all mentioned the population of Taiwan. For a country the (approximate) size of Vancouver Island in Canada, there are over 23,000,000 people! Canada’s TOTAL population is a little over 31,000,000 from the last I heard. It’s probably more now! Nonetheless, think about it people. Shove every single Canadian citizen onto Vancouver Island, and you will get the idea of what this country is like.

Now, the second piece of information was that, there are approximately 2 scooters for every man, woman, and child in Taiwan! Yeah! Over 50,000,000 scooters!! That’s insane. You think that’s crazy, there are approximately 3.5 cellphones for every man, and child! 3.5! I have 1. So someone here in Taiwan has my other 2.5 cellphones. Anytime they’d like to return them, I’d be grateful! Haha… I remember seeing one person a couple of months ago, with not 1, 2 or 3, but 5 cellphones attached to his belt! Why? Actually, I don’t want to know!

Okay, so there are a lot of scooters in this country. If you’ve never seen a scooter, think of it as a bicycle with a lawn mower engine! They are great little vehicles for getting around traffic in this congested country.

The final piece of information that I remember distinctly, was the Ministry of Transportation reporting that less than 10% of all scooters in Taiwan are actually registered with them. Taking that back to the population, that means that less than 10% of the population have registered scooters!

What about the other 80%? Well, I know for a fact, having been here for as long as I have, that the foreign population is partly to blame. Scooters are sold from one to another with no papers or licenses. The police don’t really both with foreigners because of the language barrier. And in most cases, they won’t even pull us over anyway!

When it comes to accidents involving the foreigners, it the other person, in the right or the wrong, is a local, they will take off. No waiting around, no exchanging of information, no settlements. Once you pick your ass up off the street, there is no one around. No one stops to help. So, going with the national average as above, there is a VERY high likelihood that the person you were involved in the accident with, probably doesn’t have a license.

Again, I’m not saying this was the case with me. Yes, I will admit quite freely that this is not the first time that I’ve been involved in an accident. This is the third. “Third times the charm.” This time, the person did stick around. I did get a license number. I did get a photo of the person.

Now, he may be a very good boy. He probably gets good grades in school. He probably is the only child. I don’t know. I don’t care.

I then think about the being not guilty in the settlement. I lost my laptop. I was asked if it is normal for me to have my laptop with me. Actually, 3 or 4 days a week, I do have it with me. There are many opportunities now that I can do a bit of work while students are completing workbook exercises. So, yes, it is normal now, as with thousands of other people, that my laptop becomes part of my class material.

Since it was destroyed, I had to purchase a new one. My iPhone got screwed up. I still have a sore hand, but nothing that I can’t deal with. And besides, it’s getting better. Thank goodness that I’m fairly healthy for my age!!

Now comes the scooter. So far, one mirror has had to be replaced. A bracket on the front has had to be repaired. The outer shell in three places has had to be replaced. The brake handle on the left side had to be replaced. I keep this scooter in very good condition. I have the oil changed regularly. Once a year, whether they need it or not, both tires are replaced for brand new ones. The motor gave out about a year ago, and was replaced. All the signal lights are constantly checked to make sure they work. The headlight, like in North America, is constantly on when I’m driving. For this I’ve been pulled over no less than 7 times to let me know the light is on. Since there is no law AGAINST driving with your lights on, that’s all that’s mentioned. Every year, the scooter undergoes an emission test to make sure that the exhaust is within acceptable standards. Since the scooter is always maintained, the emission test is always WAY BELOW what is considered, acceptable!

This scooter must get me around town. I cover approximately 750km a week in travel. Sounds like a lot, I know. This does not include the little side trips to Kao-hsiung or Tainan county when I get a chance. This is only driving around from home to classes, Monday through Sunday.

So far, the costs to repair my scooter are approaching the 7500nt mark. I’m hoping that’s it. The new computer was 15,000nt. The loss of class time was over 7200nt, based on my lowest per hour rate. So far, I’m looking at almost 30,000nt! I asked for 40,000nt to basically cover the costs. Then I think, no, I do not feel guilty asking for 40,000nt.

My recommendation to people driving in this country, foreigner or local, keep your camera handy! If you have one on your cellphone, make that a priority once you get your senses back. Take pictures! This is the only way in many cases, to back up your claim.

All I can really say to this person, you’re lucky you weren’t involved in an accident in North America. You likely would have lost your license for a minimum of one year, your insurance rates would DEFINITELY have gone up, and the amount of payout would have been a lot more… not just to cover costs, but to cover ‘future’ costs, such as medical!

If my friends here thought I was a cautious driver before, they’ll think I’m mad now. I am even MORE cautious when driving. Looking both ways twice or three times, just to make sure. Making sure the light is 100% green before proceeding through the intersection. I always leave early for my classes so I’m not late. Now I’m leaving about 5 minutes earlier than that, so that there IS no rush to get to work.



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One response to “May 26, 2010

  1. Pingback: May 26, 2010 « Xyvius's Blog | Breaking News 24/7

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