I Don’t Drive Well After Back from San Jose

After continuous 10 days of driving in San Jose area, I feel I do not drive as well as before in Shanghai. Recently, Wendy clearly feels unsafe when she is on board on the car. I feel the same. I start to become either too dangerous or too troublesome for other drivers in Shanghai. Here are some examples.

Stop at the STOP Sign

I tried to stop at the STOP sign. There is a STOP sign at the exit of my residential area. I need to make the left turn. I stop at the STOP sign, which is about 2 meters away from the main road – it is the road for bicycles. If a car follows me, 2 out of 3 times, the car will horn at me and almost hit me. They didn’t expect a car to stop for no reasons – there was no car running on the main road, and there is no bicycles on the bicycle lane.

Only after I stop, I feel the STOP sign is at the wrong location. After I stop, I still cannot see whether there is cars running toward my position on the car lane – there are a high tree fence between the car’s lane and the bicycle’s lane. I stop, but I don’t have a clear sight about whether I should go or not. So I just stop, keep driving, pass the STOP sign and stop again at the edge of the car’s lane. Only after that can I see whether there is car or not clearly. So sometimes, I just stop just in the middle of the bicycle lane, and force some bicycles to stop beside my car. Often, they will stare angrily at me or shout.

Conclusion: It is right to follow the original rule – don’t stop at the stop sign but be cautious enough about the coming cars.

Go Near a Merging Point

Common practice in Shanghai. Just as the previous senario, if I approach a place where there is out-coming traffic, and there is STOP sign there, I have to slow down and watch the decision the driver of the car (90 degree of my direction) makes. If he happen to decide to go (any way), I have to brake and slow down. If he seems to be patient enough, I will slowly and carefully pass by, ready to brake at any time.

If I get used to driving straight ahead, and do not pay enough attention to the cars at the T-junction, lots of cars just suddenly appears and shock me. It is very dangerous. I encounter this after two or three times – the two cars are very near. Thank God I brake quickly enough.

Conclusion: No matter there is green light, which direction you go, always pay attention cars on the left, on the right, before and sometime after you.

At Green Light

When there is green light ahead, the typical way is to slow down – to about 30 km/h in some crowded area. “Impossible is nothing” at the cross road. Sometimes, bicycles will go across and pedestrian will appear from anywhere.

So green light equals yellow light. That means you have to drive very carefully.

Yellow light means green light – people don’t see the difference.

Red light is red light – for most of drivers, but not all. :-)

The habit of driving fast as if a green light cross is the same as other part of the road no longer works.

Meeting the Pedestrian

Just now, about 9:00 PM, when I am back to home, I just left the gate, I saw two girls going to cross before me.

My habit learnt from last month worked. I stopped – full stopped and waited them to go before me. They stood there, and waited for me.

10 seconds later, I waved my hand and let them go. They just don’t go and looked at me in a strange way. I insisted to let them go first. Later, they went on. 10 meters away, they still look back at my car. Obviously they wanted to know what is wrong with my car.

It is great waste of time. I was lucky that there was no car behind me. Otherwise, I will create another angry driver there.

Conclusion: Don’t try to yield for pedestrian, because pedestrians are not used to go before a started engine yet.

Very Confused

I am very confused in the last several days. The problem I face is, if I follow the traffic rule (the traffic rules are not difference too much in U.S. and China), I will be a trouble maker. I, as an individual will greatly slow down the whole traffic system. I will waste other’s time by stopping at a stop sign or even yeild for pedstrain. I will hit other’s car for not paying enough attention when I drive or injure some cyclist.

After I think really hard, my conclusion is, every society has its own rule. If I have the power to change the rule, I change the rule. I still can do a lot of things with my own effort.

If I cannot change the rule, I will follow the EXISTING rule instead of making trouble. To follow a rule that is only in someone’s mind or on the book does not mean you are a good player in this society.

Doing Business?

For doing business in China, is it the same way? Following the same business rule in U.S. may not work in China. What if insisting on some rules will hurt someone (partners, customers?) and finally hurt the business itself? If you are the only one to follow a rule you truly believe (like the “right” traffic rule), the business may encounter some serious problems. Maybe to crash into another car is not better than following a rule that I firmly believe. No world is ideal.

Any Suggestion?

The “doing something you think is right” rule does not apply to me. I don’t think after I hit other car off the road, I still believe I am the best driver in Shanghai – “Look at all othe other driver: they didn’t hit any person or car in 20 years, but how can you claim you are better driver for following a rule others don’t follow?” Maybe what I do is to promote traffic rules on blog, and on other way instead of practicing it on the road? What a wired answer I have. To contribute to make a better place to live is not easy.

22 Comments

  1. I am fighting — I stop in front of all red lights in Shanghai — and I really enjoy doing this each time.

  2. The “meeting the pedestrian” part is funny. They say this about Seattle, too — pedestrians from out of town see you stop to let them pass, and they think it’s a trick — are you going to lure them out, only to gun the engine and give them a fright? San Jose and Seattle are strange — most large cities in the U.S. don’t stop for pedestrians voluntarily, especially when there is nobody behind you.

  3. “The problem I face is, if I follow the traffic rule (the traffic rules are not difference too much in U.S. and China), I will be a trouble maker…To follow a rule that is only in someone’s mind or on the book does not mean you are a good player in this society”

    Hmm, are you saying that the “rule” in China righ now is not to follow those rules on the book ? :-)

    Happy New Year!

  4. Heh — when I first moved to California, I almost caused a huge traffic accident in San Francisco by stepping off the curb (as a pedestrian) one moment before a taxi would have whizzed by. I learned my pedestrian skills in Boston (a terrifying place to walk or drive) where it was common practice to lean forward from the side (or middle) of the road as a car went by and then leap between it and the next one (coming fast) in order to make it across. In San Francisco though, the moment I stepped off the curb, all the cars screeched to a halt to let me pass. I was amazed (and horrified)! Who knew?

  5. Wait until you get hit, or hit others. Then you will have a trial, then you will know the rules.

    More comments later, I’LL BE BACK

  6. For people in the road to read each other’s mind, it takes time, perhaps the entire generation, just to learn why drivers and pedestrians must adhere to the common rule.

    Many people thinks American has the the best and perfect traffic regulation of the world yet tens of thousand dies from it. It is the behavior of the people who dictates the safety in the road.

    I am really impressed by the German who has the best behavior in the road.

  7. Wang xian sheng.

    You are playing a dangerous game. Follow the law in the states. If other people honk, so what! Its more important that you are safe than they save ten seconds.

  8. I think with the efforts of our generation, the rules could be changed.

    Might we be 50 or 60 that day.

    But I believe.

  9. Frank,

    Wang Jianshuo is no longer in “the states”, but in Shanghai. Silly! To not follow the unwritten laws and instead follow the written laws (much as one would/should in the US) could get him or his passengers hurt in Shanghai.

  10. I wish I could celebrate this event :

    Today I have been driving for exactly one year in Shanghai.

    But I can’t, I have now decided to GIVE UP driving here.

    I have so far not had any scratches (knock, knock, pure luck),

    but I think it’s only a matter of time, because it is

    REALLY insane what’s going on here.

    I have been driving for 26 years by now, whereof one year in China.

    Before I couldn’t imagine that so many people could be so ignorant to others.

    Unless the authorities in China do something drastic, like beginning to educate all people thorugh the medias, and stop putting more vehicles on the already crowded streets, nothing will improve.

    Chinese live by : Nothing happens to me, so why bother.

    Other trafficants are not part of my life, so f… them.

    Foreigners are chocked to hear that more than 100.000 people die every year in the traffic of China. This is : as a driver you have 0.5% chance of killing one person every year.

    However, noone seems to care less than the chinese people itself.

    Now I will go by subway and walk (despite that walking is quite dangerous too).

    If I go by taxi, I will get out again if the driver shows to be a “crazy” driver.

    My life is on stake, I QUIT DRIVING NOW !

  11. hey, congrats for driving a year in Shanghai!

    i also want to celebrate the fact that i have been living in Shanghai for just over a year, and i have not driven here, even once! I will try to continue.

    reckon that it’s also dangerous to walk, but what’s not? riding a bike? no way!

  12. carsten,

    Have you read the book ‘catch 22’? If you can navigate the Shanghai traffic for one year without a scratch, then I think you have graduated. Why give up now.

  13. Wangjianshuo-

    When I visited Beijing, then Shanghai at New Year’s of year 2000, I thought the Beijing traffic was just about the most dangerous I had ever experienced. Next year, I went to Italy… NOW there is some dangerous traffic. The Italian drivers are completely insane. Peace out.

  14. hehe, carsten… try to take it positively, without this one year miserable driving experience in Shanghai, you might not feel how nice it is to drive in Denmark ;-)

    Without spending all my life in Shanghai, I wouldn’t have felt so nice that a green light means a green light in Scandinavian… :-)

    ok, I have to confess that being a local, I hate to drive here… even on sunny weekend day time :-p

    my man often complains that I do not share his “driving-load” at all… and some weeks ago when I was again in a taxi in Nordic country, I sent him a message “I cound consider to drive this taxi now even on this snowing day”… he replied from Shanghai “hehe”…

  15. mcgjcn, my car in my home country is longing for me like a dog. It wants me to come home and drive it all the time !

    I went around Europe last summer, that was a pleasure. Even going at full throttle through Germany, and pushing through the Milano traffic, was just “piece of cake” compared with the driving in Shanghai.

    Stephen, you make me busy… Now I HAVE to find that book…!

    But how to find that in Shanghai ?? :-)

  16. No world is ideal,especially in business,especially in China.As a person now working in China,I am very sensible about what you say.\

    这个世界没有完美,尤其在中国,在商业上。作为一名在中国工作的人,对此我深有体会。

  17. carsten,

    Don’t take it serious, it is a book written by Joseph Heller in the ’70 and Hollywood had made a movie based on that. Perhaps you can get a DVD instead.

    I just feel the American bombardier in the book assembles great similarity on your driving dilemma in Shanghai, no offence.

  18. see? …carsten, there is something good about it, after driving here, you are fully qualified to drive anywhere ;-)

    sometimes I would think, Shanghai might be a market with great potential for helicopters soon :-D but, but, it might not be nice to have occasionally pieces of helicopters falling from the sky due to no traffic lights…

  19. Frank is silly. Frank now understand.

    BTW Frank drive in Shanghai for two years. Love it. Frank also like extreme sports. Frank only have one major accdient. he he. (no one hurt. but need new radiator and hood).

  20. dude, this article is really impressive..

  21. traffic laws are not strictly enforced in Shanghai as compared to the Bay Area. Chinese policemen in small volkswagons just don’t display the same type of authority as CHPs in their big Ford Crown Victorias.

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