Part II (Being a Driver in China)
Here is an anecdote about a special kind of drivers.
A man took his friend for a ride. At one of intersections he recklessly crossed the road at red light.
“Hey, what are you doing? – shouted his friend – You didn’t see there was red light?”
“Of course, I saw, – answered the man very calmly, – but I am a skilled driver.”
At next intersection the traffic light was green but the man stopped his car.
“What’s wrong with you? It’s green light – you can drive.”
“Yeah? And what if another skilled driver suddenly comes out!”
Somewhat similar interpretations of traffic rules can be observed in China on daily basis. I am from Israel and people here always complain that the local drivers are crazy. I also thought so… before I visited China for the first time.
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My impression was that the traffic rules for Chinese drivers were more like recommendation than law. The only word with which I can describe the interaction of people, bicycles and cars on China’s roads (and sidewalks) is “chaos”.
But people get used to everything and also foreigners who spend more time in China start seeing logic in this chaos. Take, for example, the comment of one guy to the question “Why are there so many crazy drivers in China?” in Yahoo! Answers:
I experienced this for myself as well. At first I also thought it was crazy chaos – everyone switching lanes and pushing in front of each other, cutting others off and pushing their way through the pedestrians. But honestly, the more I was transported through the traffic the more I realized that although it seems chaotic at first – it works pretty well from an effectiveness point of view.
In South Africa, we also give way to others and respect other car’s space, but when there’s traffic here, we all stop dead still and move every 2 minutes. In China, however, because everyone keeps trying to get further, the traffic actually moves a lot better.
Reasons of Bad Driving Habits in China
Regarding the underlying reasons of such driving habits people give different explanations, but all of them boil down to the following three factors:
1) Number of cars in China grows much faster than number (and quality) of roads. And in the future the situation will possibly get even worse.
2) There is a big proportion of new and inexperienced drivers in China who just recently got their license.
3) This is a cultural thing related to overcrowdiness in China.