Driving Through the Ages
I must admit that when I was in school, history wasn’t my strong suit. Memorizing all those dates and places and people who long, long ago passed away. Sure, the things that we study has, in some way, had a bearing on our lives today. The history that I really enjoy reading about, is more recent. History that perhaps some people moving around these days, still remember.
When I was in my teens, learning about the history of our country, I would see pictures of the pioneers roaming across the prairies in covered wagons being pulled by horses. Of course, these were the first modes of transportation people had besides using their legs. Then along came bicycles. Then eventually, the car was invented.
This must have been exciting for people, and also a little scary. There would not have been roads or rules that people had to follow. Hell, there weren’t even licenses! A person could purchase the car, and drive away that moment. People not so fortunate to have a vehicle, would have to get out of the way when honked at. Perhaps the person driving the vehicle may have been respectful and steered out of the way. However, some of the old video footage I’ve seen, shows the driver of the vehicle honking and basically, expecting that because he has a motorized vehicle, everyone should get out of his way.
As time passed, and more and more vehicles came onto the scene, this has blossomed. It seems that the younger the driver, the more this person feels others should get out of their way. In a sense, that seems to be a good idea. Younger drivers tend to take more risks, not only with their lives, but with others. They feel they are invincible and everyone else should realize this.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m perfect or an example to follow by any stretch of the imagination. However, I do believe in respect. Respect for others on the road. Respect for pedestrians. Respect for my self and my life.
I never went through the stage of wanting to see how fast I could drive down a city street. I never went through the stage of seeing if I could run a yellow light. I never went through the stage of whether I could zip in and out traffic on the highways.
There are basic rules of the road that are there for a reason. The lawmakers don’t just set a speed limit of say, 50km/hr because they want everyone to go slow. They don’t tell you not to talk on cellphones just because they don’t have one. Lines are not just put on the road because the city has nothing else to do with 500,000 liters of paint. Lights aren’t just added to a car to make it look pretty.
We all know that when we are young, as opposed to older, our reflexes are a lot more keen. We also know that certain things inhibit these reflexes – alcohol, drugs, cellphones, etc. And in case you aren’t really aware of it, when you are on a road or street or highway, you really are NOT the only person on that roadway. There are others – other drivers, buses, trucks, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, pedestrians… When you are sitting behind the wheel of a 2 tonne chunk of metal and glass, there are others relying on the fact that you are not only caring for your life, but theirs as well.
A couple of months ago, I was visited by the foreign police here in Taiwan. I thought it might have had something to do with my application for my ARC renewal. No. The person visiting me wanted my opinion on a book that is being (or has been) published for the foreign community here in Tainan. This person wanted my opinion on the information contained therein.
No, what does this have to do with driving you ask. Well, somehow the conversation got around to the driving rules in Taiwan. As we were chatting, I relayed some of the insane incidents I had recently seen happening around the city. Now, you should realize that I travel around Tainan quite a bit – as do probably 90% of the rest of the population. Yes, most of these people are driving from work to home to the night market and back again, but some of us have more than one location for work – namely, foreign teachers.
I asked what some of the basic rules of the road were in Taiwan, as pertaining to foreigners. This person indicated that the rules were the same for foreigners, as they were for locals. Let’s see. Stop at red lights. Go on green lights. Signal when turning. Wearing helmets on scooters. And these were just some of the little things I was interested in.
It was told to me that the mayor of Tainan, whatever his name is as I don’t know Chinese, but if it is the same guy I’ve seen on TV over the years, he has 3 or 4 VERY long hairs crawling out of a mole on his face (ugh – whatever), has declared that the use of helmets is voluntary and stopping at red lights and speeding are not causes for the police to pull you over or issue a ticket. Hmm.
Think about it. The use of a helmet is to protect that little bit of grey matter contained inside that thin layer of hair and skin some of us have. Personally, I still use that grey matter. I actually need this grey matter to do my daily tasks. So, I use a helmet. I’ve kind of given up on those neanderthals who refuse or ‘forget’ to put on their helmet. I figure, if they get into an accident and their grey matter is splattered all over the pavement, then so what. Who cares? At least this example of humanity will not be driving any longer. If he or she has so little value over their life and/or their grey matter that they don’t need a helmet, well, good luck! I suppose the other reason for not wearing a helmet, is the horrible mess it makes to one’s hair.
I’ve always heard and repeated often, lights and lines are merely suggestions. In Tainan, this is now a reality issued by the Mayor.
Much like the question of whether a tree makes a noise when it falls in the forest, if no one is there to hear it, my question since I started to drive is…
When you are at a red light, and there is ABSOLUTELY no one around, is it still illegal to go through the light?
Well, here in Tainan, I can only surmise that most of the local population are colourblind. And it’s not just scooterists, either! Anyone approaching a red light, considers it more as a flashing yellow light. Some just don’t seem to care or consider anything other than a nuisance. I have seen way too often, cars and trucks and yes, even a police car, drive through a red light without even TRYING to slow down. In some cases, I have watched these people from a safe distance, and not only are they just going through the light as if it wasn’t there, they aren’t even looking to see if others are approaching in the opposite directions!
In Canada, I was always told that when you drive, you should be a defensive driver. Here in Taiwan, it seems you need to be an OFFENSIVE driver! Okay, so when I drive around the city, I practice defensive driving. I value my life way too much. I’ve gotten to the point where I could care less about other people on the road breaking rules, and care about myself. No, I will not go through a red light. Yes, I will always wear my helmet. Yes, I always drive within the speed limits. Yes, I signal when I turn corners or change lanes. No, I do not drag race idiots on the road.
There is a video on Youtube of a Japanese doctor driving his super duper racing car well above the speed limits. I suppose he wanted to show everyone a) how much money he had, and b) how fast he could drive through Japan. Well, this educated dork decided to not only record his lunacy, but then had the wits (or lack thereof) to publish the video on Youtube!
The Japanese authorities have since been able to find this dink, and he now faces up to 6 months in prison, and a $1200 fine (I assume US$ conversion, since the Japanese use Yen). I honestly don’t think this will do any good. Even if he does go to jail, when he gets out, he’ll be more pissed off at the system, pissed that his medical practice will have suffered, he’s out a bit of cash, and will go right back to his driving. Probably the same as or worse than before. The best thing would be to take away his driving privileges altogether! But then, would that really work?
How about this… have his $250,000 super duper car towed away to the crushing machine. Have him watch as the vehicle is scrunched into a cube. Don’t bother with jail time. Charge him for the speeding and reckless driving, the cost to haul his car to the crusher, charge him for the cost to crush this vehicle into a block of metal, and then charge him to dispose of the metal. AND, while this car is being pulverized, broadcast it on all stations, pre-empting all the game shows and sports events, so everyone can see that this is what will happen when you are caught!
Japan apparently has some of the most stringent driving laws in the world. Set an example, Japan. More and more and more people are driving. People are living longer and driving for longer years. Show people that driving recklessly and dangerously without a care for others, is just not acceptable!
That’s it, that’s all… for now!