More Thoughts on Traffic Safety

Yesterday, when I was listing some of the execrable behaviors of Taiwanese drivers here, I left one out.  It turned out to be an important one.  They have a damnable tendency to drive into intersections without looking to see who else might be entering the intersection.  I mean, if you were going to turn right from a small alley onto a major road, wouldn't you check to make sure that there was a clear space in the lane you were turning into?  Isn't that one of the first things they teach you in driver's ed?  "Stop and look both ways before entering the intersection" is practically burned onto my frontal lobe.  Oh, wait, scooter driver's don't have to take driver's ed here.  Ah, cultural differences.

The first thing I noticed, as a I picked myself up off the ground, was that my left shoe was, inexplicably, lying about 30 feet away.  I'm not sure why this is, but scooter accidents always seem to involve flying shoes.  There's just something about the way people sit on scooters that guarantees that at least one shoe will go astray during an accident.

The second thing I noticed was that my shoe was not, thankfully, still attached to my left foot.  My left foot, still encased in white sock, was still in its accustomed place at end of my left leg.  After a quick check to make sure all of my other body parts were still present, I noticed that I didn't really hurt anywhere.  This is always an ominous sign.

The third thing I noticed, after picking up my shoe, was the other guy.  This was surprising to me, since up until that point I thought I'd just fallen over trying to avoid him, and that he'd gotten off clean.  Obviously not.  Well, hopefully he'll pause (or at least slow down) and look before he speeds through a right turn next time.

My scooter won the collision, apparently.  My fender has some cracks, and the little plastic ring that surrounded my ignition is gone, but otherwise, it runs as well as it did before.  His scooter was still recognizable as a scooter, but there were several large chunks lying separately on the ground.

I don't know how he was physically, but he stood up OK, and told me not to worry about it.  One of the nice things about Taiwan is the no-fault insurance.  Basically, when you buy a scooter, it comes with insurance.  It doesn't matter whose fault the accident was.  This is not a surprising policy once you think about it in terms of the Chinese cultural focus on saving face.  If you don't need to argue about whose fault the accident was, then there is much less face lost all around.

Luckily for me, I was on my way to a language exchange, where I was able to sit down and give myself a thorough once-over.  I have scrapes on both knees and elbows, as well as my right wrist.  This is probably due to the high-speed roll I entered into immediately upon leaving the vicinity of my scooter.  My language exchange partner, Joy (who is awesome), got some bandages for me from the restaurant staff, put iodine on my scrapes, and bandaged me up.  (We were in a MOSBurger, which is a Japanese hamburger chain.  Not amazingly healthy, but better and tastier than McD's.)

It's strange how the body reacts to an accident like this.  At first, you're just in shock.  There's a bang, you tumble, you sit up, your brain goes "Huh?" and you see your shoe sitting 30 feet away.  Emotion hasn't had a chance to react yet, so you get up, get your shoe on, pick up your scooter, and just look at the other guy blankly.  Everything's very matter-of-fact.  Too matter-of-fact.  It's like a part of your brain shuts down for a bit.  Then, once your body decides it doesn't need the adrenaline anymore, you get the shakes.  This passed quickly, this time.  Then, later, when I had left the scene and was driving to my languange exchange, I started laughing for no apparent reason.  It's like my body just wanted to express it's extreme gratitude that "Hey! I'm alive!  Whee!"  I tried to suppress this quickly, because "giddily" is not the best way to drive a scooter.  Luckily, it didn't last long, either, and the restaurant was a pretty short drive, anyway.

So now, here I am, at work, wearing six bandages and walking with a limp.  Luckily, I heal pretty fast, and it's all very minor damage.   And I learned a valuable lesson (or at least, had it reinforced): Drive carefully, because THEY WON'T.

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3 Responses to “More Thoughts on Traffic Safety”

  1. Ro Says:

    I’m glad your ok:) You were wearing your helmet right? I’m just suprised I didn’t see any comments addressed to your mom like your other excerpts to reassure her that your ok etc… In any case, when are you coming back to the USA to visit?

  2. Vivian Says:

    Sounds like even if you drive safely…they will still run into you. Those damn Taiwanese people. Hope ur OK and dont have any long-term conditions.

  3. Cousin Dick Says:

    On January 26th of this year I was riding my bicycle to work. It was noon and sunny. I was lit by the sun. The sun was high enough in the sky as not to blind anyone–anyone. I was riding north in the bike lane at about 10 mph (you may remember miles. They’re like kilometers only smaller and not really related to any other form of measurement in any meaningful way.) As I entered into the intersection of 7th Avenue and West 112th Street (Manhattan, USA) a 1985 Buick coming south made a left turn into the intersection and smashed into the the side of my bike, just far back enough to miss my left leg.

    Almost as soon as I hit the pavement a lovely little lady, clearly suffering drug addiction and malnutrition, came over, introduced herself, and offered to phone for an ambulance. She also assured me that she was well known at this particular intersection and could always be contacted there should I need her “to say anything.” I accepted the ambulance-phoning part of the offer.

    Not long thereafter the woman who had driven the 1985 Buick into me came over. At first she was unable to speak. Subsequently she was joined by a young teenager who, I suspect, had just come from a first aid class. He, calmly to a fault, kept repeating that I was not to move. From my position on the ground this appeared to be good advice. I followed it.

    Then in moderately rapid succession a fire department supervisor (in NYC the EMS is part of the FD) pulled up and asked some basic questions through the window of his vehicle. He was followed by two hook and ladder fire trucks (in the event that I’d been knocked into a tree?) Next the police arrived then, ultimately, an ambulance. (O, yes–the fire trucks departed so that the ambulance could get near me.)

    The rest of the story, not unlike that already related, was routine. The only thing of interest was the driver’s comment to the police officer taking her statement:

    “I didn’t see him. I was looking for a parking space.”

    In the year 1985, the year in which this very Buick about which I write was born, my friend and city biking expert David Lutz coined what has now become known as Lutz’ Law:

    ***When a person mounts a bicycle they both become invisible.***

    Apparently this applies to scooters in Taiwan as well.

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