Dear Chinese drivers:
I say it with all the love in the world, but it’s true, you suck.
I’ve written about how taxi drivers here are actually some of the best drivers, even though they seem crazy, and it’s true. But recently, I have taken a couple of car trips outside of the city, and the average Chinese person’s highway driving scares the pants off me. Why? Do you really want to know? OK, here’s a list:
- I know Chinese people often score high on standardized testing and all, but that doesn’t mean you are better at multi-tasking than any of the rest of us. Flying down the highway at 150km/h, smoking a cigarette, and talking or texting on a cell phone is eventually going to get you (and me if I’m in your car) into some serious carnage.
- What’s with the primal need that you have to be first (though not just while driving)? Example: I was attending a wedding one day. We started in the city, and then the car team traveled out to a nearby village for the lunch (for those who don’t know, there is often a big line of cars for weddings here that carry the guests. The first car contains the bride and groom and is always supposed to remain at the front of the line). We drove for an hour, on various qualities of roads, and all the while, the drivers constantly swerved around each other trying to be the first in line, even passing the lead car at times before realizing this was a bit of a faux pas. Really, can you not just chill out sometimes?
- Choose a lane! Can you see those white-ish lines painted on the ground? They are there to separate the road into things called lanes so that cars can safely drive past one another and they allow for proper distance between the sides of those cars. So if you would just choose ONE (and preferably drive in the middle of it), the other cars on the road could go around you without nearly scraping the paint off both their car and yours. That being said…
- The shoulder of road is NOT a lane! Especially when it travels directly into a pillar for an overpass or a merge lane containing traffic.
- The gas pedal (this applies to city driving too). Do you know that it doesn’t have to be constantly pumped? It’s not an old-fashioned sewing machine pedal. Why do you need to accelerate as fast as possible and then slam on the brakes at the first sight of something even remotely near the front of the car? Unless you enjoy being constantly carsick, there is a better way to drive (that old story about the tortoise and the hare – you’ll probably tell me that Chinese people invented that story way back in their long history, so perhaps you could take a bit of that advice to heart). And on a related note…
- When you choose to pass a large transport truck, why in the world do you feel the need to brake while doing so? Is it so that the driver of the truck can get a better glimpse at the Mickey Mouse stickers you have plastered all over your Passat? Seriously, if you’re passing a truck, the aim is to get past it and safely back into that lane, no? So stop pumping the brakes halfway through!
- Speaking of passing other vehicles, when you are driving on a divided highway, and all the traffic is going in the same direction, and there are two slower vehicles following one another in one lane, and you choose to pass them together, do you know that you don’t have to swerve back into their lane in between the two vehicles? What’s with this unnecessary swerving – are you just checking to ensure your steering still works? Just stay in the faster lane and pass them together. How hard is that?
- If you want to turn left onto a divided highway and you have both access to the proper lanes and time to get across the oncoming lanes to the proper lanes, why would you choose to drive into oncoming traffic instead, and continue here until the next access? That’s just asking for trouble.
- What is the deal with the horn honking and light flicking? You honk/flick when you’re going to pass another car, when someone is driving too slowly, when you are going to be driving past someone on the side of the road, when someone takes a millisecond too long to start moving at a stoplight, when a song you like comes on the radio, and about a million other situations. Is it some sort of Morse code with different flicks and/or honks to notify other drivers of your intentions? Couldn’t you just, oh, I don’t know, use your signal lights for some of that?! (I have often wondered what would happen if you put a Chinese person into a car in which the lights and horn had been disabled and sent them out driving – would they self-combust in confusion and frustration?)
- Along the same lines, I would like to point out that I’m pretty sure most of you have no need for high beam headlights at all in your driving. I’ve yet to see a situation in this country where there is so little same- or opposite-direction traffic and the area is so remote and unlit that high beams are necessary. Please, save all of our eyesight, take a look down to your instrument panel, flick the little lever you like so much, and set them on low…and leave them there.
There. Just some of the reasons you suck as drivers. Don’t be upset, take it as “constructive criticism” from a concerned foreigner (concerned for her life, that is).