I was very saddened by Monday’s bus collision and tragedy in the Hsuehshan Tunnel, yet I am not surprised.
As a Canadian who has been living in Taiwan for eight years, I am still frustrated every time I drive my car here. Whether it be on a highway, a main road through the city or even a small lane, people are always driving too fast, too close together, and with little regard for safety. There is no three-second rule to the car in front of you here, there is no need to use your turn signal when turning and there is nothing wrong with a bus driver eating betel nut, smoking cigarettes, watching TV and talking to the person sitting beside him.
There is no need for children to wear seatbelts when they can sit on the driver’s lap or stand out the car’s sunroof.
Until recently, there was no need for passengers in the rear to wear their seatbelts at all.
There is no need to look before you are turning, there is no need to be concerned with anyone around you, and there is no need to use what some people call common sense while driving.
After being cut off by a car in front of me that did not use a turn signal, I asked my Taiwanese passenger why people do not use their turn signals to warn others that they are turning.
The response was startling: “They don’t teach us to. They only teach us how to pass the test.”
I was then told that drivers do not even do a road test with their instructor. They do a couple of loops on a closed track, park a couple of times and then are given the right to drive their cars in some of the most congested traffic I have ever seen.
Until Taiwan addresses these rampant problems, needless and senseless deaths like the ones on Monday are going to continue to happen.
Police to blame
After reading the paper on Sunday, and seeing two fatal road accidents, I cannot hold my peace anymore. There have been a few letters recently concerning traffic in Taiwan, but I feel none has adequately stated the real source of the problem: the police. Enforcement is the main issue. I have argued about this with many who say education needs to be improved and while I will not argue with that, to fix this problem Taiwan needs to seriously step up enforcement.
The first issue is: Where is the will? Rather than cloud the water and argument with pretense, let us get right to it. Why aren’t laws enforced and people aggressively ticketed by the police?
In Taichung, the mayor seems to have turned his attention to drunken driving. While that is a noble cause, what about the daily traffic violations that have become so flagrant, so aggressive and so dangerous that I do not know how people are not demanding that the local and national authorities take action?
I believe that the police are either not up to the task or have no interest in doing their job. I propose three quick fixes which have been effective in other countries with longer and safer driving traditions than Taiwan.
First, equip all public buses with cameras. These camera feeds can be monitored. Any recorded violations must be heavily ticketed. Include among crimes to be punished parking in a driving lane. The constant obstruction of busy roads by motorists who seem to park their car wherever they wish is one of the greatest dangers bicyclists and motorcyclists face.