I have heard it said that when coming to a strange place, people go through a cycle of emotions. One of these is the obvious culture shock, and when I came here, I certainly experienced that. In fact, I thought that my last few years of study had been wasted. One of my immediate reactions was horror at the crazy way people were driving.
In the area I live in, the University District, one of the more busy areas of the city, there is no left turn signals, or left turn lanes. If there was, it might not matter, since people don't seem to pay much attention to them. When someone wants to turn left, they just cut through all the cars and motor scooters in the opposing lanes of traffic. Everyday, I find myself on the sidewalk, walking between two cars that are making left turns.
But as is often the case, on my second or third day here, I realized that this is not anywhere near as dangerous as it seems. Why? Because people are actually paying attention to what they are doing, most of the time.
Quite a while ago, I wished to write a node on how the elite culture influences the day to day culture, and vice versa, and how, if at all, you can judge what members of a culture will actually do from their formal culture. It's a very large issue, and one I never managed to breach.
When thinking about traffic, though, In couldn't help but think about one of the issues in Confucian thought my professor often brought up: the difference between tong, or conformity, and he, or harmony. It is one thing to have everyone doing everything at the same time, and another to have everyone doing their own thing, but still managing to coexist. It seems that the traffic on the streets of Tainan, while avoiding the high degree of regimentation you would find on an American street, still manages to avoid becoming a disaster, because the people are aware of what is going on around them. While aggressive, they do not seem to actually be rude, and they make allowances for the circumstances around them.
I quickly came to the realization that the streets of Tainan, at least, were probably no more dangerous than the streets of home. However, while Confucian philosophy and feelings of harmony are well and good, what is the actual statistical analysis?
, there are a total of 3,335 traffic fatalities a year in Taiwan, out of a population of 22,191,087
. And according to
, the United States has a total of 42,065 traffic fatalities out of a population of 272,639,608
. Keeping in mind
the problems with these statistics, and the very different circumstances in these countries, it seems that, despite the seeming chaos and the crowding, Taiwanese drivers may actualy be compensating with better driving, leading to a roughly equal accident rate.
Yet another thing to mull over.
kthx to mittens_of_doom for telling me she wouldn't believe all my wishy washy stuff until I came up with some numbers to back it up