Another Letter Man

I should begin with a disclaimer.  I am not attempting to criticise or belittle anyone*.  I am simply trying to understand the Taiwanese way of thinking, so I may integrate more easily into this society.  I repeat, I am genuinely interested in finding out what the average Taiwanese person is actually thinking in a number of scenarios, because I find myself increasingly baffled, confused and bemused by what I witness each day.

Today, I want to ask questions about driving habits or the driving ‘rules’ (such as there are any rules), but my question is going to need some scene setting and not a small degree of joined-up thinking.  Please bear with me.

Conventional driving wisdom in every country I have ever visited suggests that you wait for oncoming traffic to pass before turning across the opposite lane.  Here, the rule seems to be that you wait if (and only if) you decide that the oncoming traffic has time enough to slow down and not collide with your vehicle.  Now, this is where I need to suggest that joined-up thinking.

Before that, here’s a picture of a typical scene of scooters in Taiwan.  Nothing to do with today’s post, really.  Just a remarkable photograph:


In a common scenario, the driver crossing the lane makes a decision to go knowing (or hoping) that the oncoming traffic will slow down.  Sure enough, it does, most of the time.  This is the part I’m interested in, because this is where the thinking comes in to play.  What is the driver thinking as s/he causes the oncoming vehicle(s) to have to slow down?  I really don’t know.  Somebody… anybody, please tell me, because here’s the point.  The manoeuvre has just caused one, two, five, ten, maybe twenty, often more, oncoming cars, scooters and lorries to slow down, sometimes to a stop.  Just for a moment, think about the consequences of this: wasted fuel, increased exhaust emissions, additional brake dust.  Now think about this on a countrywide scale, each and every minute of every hour of every day.  I’m sad enough to have done a calculation.  I’m no scientist, so I’m just doing simple figures to illustrate the point.  Think about this:

Imagine that, as a result of the situation I have described, a vehicle (i.e. one unit) is caused to slow down and then re-accelerate, and imagine that this burns an extra 1ml of fuel**.  Imagine that this causes an extra 0.1g of brake dust.  Imagine that this happens one million unit times per day (it happens to me approximately 10 times per journey, so one million is conservative!).  According to my tiny brain, that’s 365,000 extra litres of fuel being burnt and an extra 36,500 kilograms of brake dust each year.  Hardly scientific, I know, but the point is, there is extra pollution and waste.  Bear in mind that this country has a major problem with air pollution, and consider that millions of people are outside wearing their anti-pollution face masks each and every day.  In other words, this particular element of traffic behaviour makes absolutely no sense.  Sure, the driver waiting to cross is idling and burning fuel, but on a scale nowhere near that of the moving traffic being forced to slow down.  So:

Dear Drivers

When crossing the lane and causing oncoming drivers to have to slow down and then accelerate back up to speed, what exactly are you thinking?  Please enlighten me.  More to the point, what are the oncoming drivers thinking as they have to waste yet more precious fuel while wearing out brake pads and gearboxes?  This is the particularly odd thing; nobody seems in the least bit bothered about it.  Why is nobody bothered about it?  You are bothered about face masks and about your precious time being wasted, so it would seem logical that this would bother the hell out of you and you’d do something about it.  It doesn’t and you don’t.  I simply don’t understand.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Aside from any of this fuel/brake dust nonsense, the system is flawed in the sense that it relies upon the driver crossing the lane making an accurate judgement of the speed of the oncoming vehicle(s), not to mention the fact that the driver has no way of knowing of the oncoming driver(s) are actually paying attention.  Let’s be honest, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll be fiddling with their phone, lighting a cigarette, stuffing some more betelnuts (bin-lan?) in their mouth, or simply day dreaming about the latest Hello Kitty product while gently dozing off.

Oh, and here’s another collision.  *Actually, this one deserves belittling and criticism as the fuckwit has all the clues at his disposal, yet still accelerates at a red light, while the scooter riders (the victims) are all on the wrong side of the road:

**I looked on Gooooogle to get a figure for fuel being burnt while idling.  A quick look suggests anything from 0.1 to 0.3 gallons per hour, but that’s for a specific type of vehicle.  I also found this:

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5 Responses to “Another Letter Man”

  1. Mandy Says:

    Does that not constitute a hit and run? And there was a child involved!!! Very odd to say the least!

    • berevington Says:

      Yup, hit and run. He’d argue the scooters shouldn’t have been there. He did nothing wrong. Oh no, nothing wrong at all m’lud. Child involved, yes. Nothing unusual there. You may think that the mother/grandmother would be taking care to ride within the rules and not put the child at further risk. Oh no, she needed to get across the road about 5 seconds quicker and checking that it was safe to do so simply didn’t enter her head. #braindead

  2. Darren McCall Says:

    Hi Collin, i think its just that no one gives a shit about anyone else whos on the road. everyone is just thinking ‘ how can i get to where im going the fastest’. I also thought it was funny how the ambulance drives past all the riders who are injured on the floor.

    • berevington Says:

      To be fair to the ambulance crew, they may well have had a critical patient on board, so I don’t find that especially worrying.

  3. berevington Says:

    Yes, precisely. I get that. I just don’t get why nobody seems the least bit interested in making changes. It just needs some joined-up thinking.

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