Drive in China: Life Threatening Experience

Most people have heard the horror stories about the traffic in China, and unfortunately a lot of it is true.  Everyday I go outside to flag down a taxi and pray that I will make it to work in one piece.

Most of the Chinese have only been driving for about the last 5 years and in some cases it is the first time they have ever seen a car let alone drive one.  All those traffic rules that we have in America are just thrown out the window.   People here often drive on the wrong side of the road, cut each other off at intersections, push their way in front of other cars, are always honking their horn if the person in front is moving too slowly or just not moving.

I am not sure what the minimum speed is in the city limits since I have yet to see it posted however… people seem to go whatever speed they want.  I can tell you about an experience that happened to me.  One of my students who owns a car decided to invite me for lunch.  She came and picked me up and then the rollercoaster ride began.   I held onto the “oh shit bar” for dear life.  (that would be the bar that is above the windows in the car.. I call it the oh shit bar because usually when you are grabbing it.. you are saying “Oh Shit”)   I noticed she had gotten into the lane to turn left.. however… the lane she was in was the one of on coming traffic… and she was in the middle of the street facing the wrong direction.   I tried to calmly tell her she was going the wrong way…. she just smiled and said… “No problem” and went ahead and turn the wrong direction in a busy intersection and drove on the side of the road until she could get the space to cut across the street to the correct side in the correct direction.   I almost went in my pants… on that one.

The rate of traffic accidents in China, including fatal accidents, is among the highest in the world. Driving etiquette in China is still developing, and the average Chinese driver has less than five years’ experience behind the wheel. As a result, traffic is often chaotic, and right-of-way and other courtesies are often ignored. Travelers to China should note that cars, bicycles, motorbikes, trucks, and buses often treat road signs and signals as advisory rather than mandatory. Vehicles traveling in the wrong lanes frequently hit pedestrians and bicyclists. Pedestrians should always be careful while walking near traffic. Most traffic accident injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists who are involved in collisions or who encounter unexpected road hazards (e.g., unmarked open manhole)

Americans are advised by the US Embassy:

Foreigners with resident permits can apply for PRC driver licenses; however, liability issues often make it preferable to employ a local driver. Child safety seats are not widely available in China. U.S. citizens who wish to ride bicycles in China are urged to wear safety helmets meeting U.S. standards. The number of U.S. citizens involved in serious and deadly traffic accidents in Beijing is increasing. The Embassy strongly encourages travelers to exercise special caution when crossing streets in China’s cities as pedestrians do not have the right of way. Please note that many taxi cabs do not have functioning seatbelts for passengers. If seatbelts are available, visitors are strongly encouraged to use them to reduce the risk of injury.

I honestly feel that every day on the streets of this town I am living an adventure.   One of the other foreign teachers decided that he would buy a bicycle to ride back and forth to work and get around town.  After about a week, he came in to school stating that he had gotten hit by a truck.  (I know) .. He was okay but his bike was messed up.   He mentioned the driver only stopped long enough to look in the rearview mirror to see if he got up.. then kept on driving.

My husband informed me that I was not allowed to ride a bicycle in China nor an Electric moped or E-bike that everyone seems to use.  He feels it is to dangerous for me… and after the accidents I have seen he is correct.

It does explain a lot of things now that I think about it.  In America we always complain that the Asian drivers are the worse drivers but now I understand why.   If you come from a country where the rules … well… if there are rules.. they are not followed and you can basically drive anyway you want… and then you arrive in America where the traffic rules are always followed I can see the issues.

I have decided that I will not be driving in China…. I fear for my life… My husband drives very well and is aware of the craziness on the streets so I will trust him to do the driving.  It’s safer that way.

I am told that less than 1/3 of the people in China own cars and know how to drive… lord help us when more people buy cars and start driving…. Chaos is only putting it lightly….

until next time…


7 thoughts on “Drive in China: Life Threatening Experience

  1. Tori

    I happened to find your blog recently, and I have to say that your stories are HIlarious, lol, but this one reminds me of when I let my Chinese guy friend drive my car because he wanted to get his American license…for the most part, it wasn’t that bad because he was being extra cautious. There was this one time, though, that we were coming up on a light to turn left, and it had just turned red (I live in the city, so of course the car ahead went through), and he was about to go through the light when the car in the opposite direction was starting to approach! Now, I’m an unusually calm person, but I was a little afraid for my life for a second and exclaimed “what are you doing?!!?!?!” as I braced myself against the dashboard, to which he just calmly said “I’m just following that other car.” All I could do was say “you can’t do that here!!” and then shake my head and start laughing…

    I always just thought that the ‘Asians don’t know how to drive’ thing was a myth…no… not to mention when I went to visit a friend in Indonesia…now that is scary

    1. First, thank you so much for reading my blog.. and thank you for the compliment… everytime I get into a car here in China… I say a little prayer that I make it to the destination okay… just the other day in the taxi ..some one ran thru a red light and almost slammed into us.. then cussed at us like it was the taxi driver’s fault… then drove on… I will never get use to that mess.

  2. pearls

    I so enjoyed reading your story. DITTO! To all daily safety precautions. I, too, understand the intensity behind trying to hold on for dear life! I truly empathize with you.

    Hopefully, they will soon set up a task force that will regulate traffic safety, before the number of cars increase on the road. Also, I don’t blame you for leaving the driving to your husband, especially under those driving conditions. One definitely will need solid nerves on a daily basis. If not, it will feel like you’ve already worked 8 hours once you reach your destination, after being on the road for only 20 minutes. I’ve personally experienced that feeling more than once in times past.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Well.. they have finally put a drunk driving law in affect .. however.. I hear if you have the right amount of money you can get out of the punishments. Unfortunately, greed can get you passed the “government rules”

    2. They have finally set up some laws for drunk drivers… I guess enough people were ran over and killed they had too… however, I hear if you have enough money… you can avoid the punishments.

  3. Ruth

    I am so glad I happened upon this blog through Black Expat. I live and work in Okinawa (no I am not military). Are you on FB –can we be FB friends? I have so many questions, etc. My e-mail address is above.

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