Tuesday, June 19, 2007

...is a safe but unruly place.

I have come to appreciate the anarchy of the road in China. Traffic rules as indicated by signs and road markings appear similar to the States, but the mores of the drivers indicate otherwise. These mores indicate that all available space shall be used by those who are most able to use it.

I love these rules.

Cars regularly drive head-on towards each other, the self-interest of each being the only thing that keeps a collision from happening. Cars that nominally have right of way will often yield it to larger, faster, or more reckless drivers. My college roommate used to call this the Road Law of Force: mass and acceleration matter more than rules.

What is most surprising is this: I have ridden in vans, taxis, and buses for several hours at a time here, and I have yet to see a single accident, nor have I seen evidence of one. I do not go but a few hours in the States without seeing one. I wonder if it is our concentration of cars or our reliance on right of way over driving opportunity that leads to this outcome. I cannot say, but I wonder.


Paperbox said...

I definitely appreciate and agree with your insight, I am originally from Hong Kong and since I've been in the U.S. for 2 years for college, I've wondered endlessly why the way I drive have rendered me countless traffic violation tickets even when I do not put anyone else's life in danger.. And you wonder why there's a stereotype in the US that Asians are bad drivers, I believe getting from pt A to pt B is all about efficiency.. however efficiency is losing its meaning in this country..

k99 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
k99 said...

This story at China Daily has some interesting numbers that contradict your observations.

Road accidents kill 300 a day in China

Sammler said...

"Right of Truck" is the phrase I have heard to describe these ad hoc rules of the road.

Brian said...

You're luck then. I've seen some pretty horrific ones since vehicles don't meet generally accepted safety standards since Chinese vehicles are built to be cheap not safe. I saw one truck on the highway between Shanghai and Hangzhou recently that flipped over after hitting the guard rail. In most vehicles you would likely walk away from something like this but in this case since the cab didn't have the appropriate structural support it was crushed along with the occupants.