Seeing that I’ve been a driver in China for approximately one year, after having purchased my own e-bike (read scooter), I only thought it à propos to reflect on a few things one needs to be aware of when driving in China. This may only apply to villages, such as the one in which I live, but my observations tell me many things that make driving in China incompatible with Western standards.
Beef #1: Turn Signals
You might as well ask what a turn signal is, because in China they are about as common as seeing the blue sky. For any non-resident people, it means it’s super rare as we hardly ever see the sky in a colour other than grey.
Beef #2: Left Hand Turns
Related to the first beef, left hand turns are mostly done into oncoming traffic or taking over the right-hand turn lane of the opposite direction. Perhaps it’s geometry, but people here think it’s appropriate to find the shortest distance to the lane to where they are going, and end up in accidents with oncoming traffic that is either going straight through an intersection, or turning right. I think I get looks when I stay on my side.
Beef #3: Lanes
Related to the previous, sometimes I wonder why lanes even exist in China. They are observed about as much as a blind man sees his own hand. It’s not uncommon to find cars going in every which way with no care about the direction. Often tuktuks go into oncoming traffic lanes thinking that there is nobody coming, and then make a big fuss when someone with the right of way comes barrelling around a corner. Observe the lanes, bitches!
Beef #4: The horn
In the Western world the horn is rarely used, and if used then the one honking feels a bit guilty, even if they are alerting someone else to their presence or an error. It’s rude, frankly. Horns, on the contrary in Asia are widespread (to our delight and disgust) and contribute to noise pollution. Sometimes people honk for no reason, but mostly it’s to alert others that you are there.
Beef #5: Blind spots
What blind spots? According to my observations there is only one perspective or point of view: directly forward. Chinese drivers never look beyond their own periphery vision to spot check or to see what is going on around them. And thus the previous beef comes into effect; it’s necessary to alert others that you’re there when passing, hence a honk, because people won’t see you as mirrors are never used and spot checking is non-existent.
Beef #6: Traffic Signals
While it’s rare to find turn signals in use, observance of traffic directions is even more rare. There is no difference between Red and Green, and the brief Yellow light only lasts about 1 second to give the traffic a warning it’s changing. People don’t care at all, and continue on their way. I’ve seen head on collisions as a result of non-observance and lack of awareness from blind spot checking, or just plain looking. Why stop in an open intersection that has no traffic that you can see, even when the oncoming traffic is blocked by trees or other buildings. It boggles my mind.
Beef #7: Parking
Any semblance of parking awareness or organization is impossible to comprehend. It’s simply an unorganized space in which one normally finds themselves boxed in and impossible to get out of. I’ve yet to see actual parking lots anywhere (even on my campus). It’s just a wide open space and people can park how they like, where they like, and in any direction they like.
Beef #8: General Safety
Having seen about 4 children hanging off of scooters, tuktuks, or on backs of trucks, there is little knowledge of safety. Perhaps it’s an absence of cultural “common sense” which causes this a problem on a grander scale. The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that “general safety” should be retitled “common sense, or lack thereof.” It’s as charming as it is annoyingly debilitating.
Really this is only scratching the surface as there are so many more things one could say. Why bother nag; this is really just for fun, in an annoying It is the song that never ends way. Why does China even have a test to become a good driver; it’s not like it seems to teach them anything about road awareness or safety. Sounds like a cash-cow to me!
Having said all this, and having never really had a licence or driven in the Western world, I feel like I’m a really safe driver. And in the last year I’m the only staff member that has a bike that hasn’t gotten into an accident. Go team safety and common sense ahoy!