Wednesday, 30 May 2012

FAO Aaron Andrews In Taichung

" my amazement, when the left-turn arrow turned green, a number of scooters turned left, ignoring the two-stage turn, which, I was led to believe, is illegal. Yet the officer did nothing as the offending drivers zoomed past."
The disjunction between what the traffic rule stipulates, and what is commonly practiced is quite natural and the reason for this is that human behaviour typically follows emergent patterns. The belief that the State can simply issue a particular traffic edict with punishments for its transgression and thereby engineer majority obedience to this edict is a simpleton's belief.

Selective obedience to the rules is not just a consequence of selective enforcement; unlike the U.S. (though some U.S. cities may be exceptional), there is a far greater traffic density in Taiwan's cities in consequence of which, making the correct judgements to stay safe on the roads often has less to do with blindly following the traffic rules and more to do with situational awareness. Therefore traffic rules are sometimes perceived as adjunctive to traffic safety, rather than essential to traffic safety - and the respect the various traffic rules are accorded probably reflects this (for instance, you're generally more likely to see people run red lights on small intersections with little traffic than on very large intersections with large volumes of traffic). Another thing is mimesis - people just copy each other.

If it is true that many of the local traffic police understand all of this, and given that they have limited resources, and given that they are not exactly incentivized to be traffic evangelicals (thank god), it really isn't that hard to understand why they just ignore most minor transgressions other than those they have been specifically assigned to pick up on.


  1. It's not illegal to turn left at every intersection in Taiwan. Only those with a sign indicating the 2 point turn is required.

  2. Sure, but presumably you know as well as I do that illegal left-turns are common-place.

    I suspect the argument for stricter enforcement is made not only from the consideration of safety (in which case it's a weak argument) but from repressed rage. Whilst the enforcement-advocates might know that dishing out fines for say, breaching the boundary line of an intersection by a yard or so isn't going to make the roads safer, I'd imagine the thought that someone is going to be hit by a NT$1,800 fine for not abiding by this particular rule probably makes them think "serves you right".


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