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Pedestrians responsible for road safety as well

Taipei City Councilor Hong Jian-yi criticized the city government for neglecting to enforce its pedestrian-first policy. Following a high-profile accident last month, in which former ambassador to South Africa Loh I-cheng was hit by a taxi and hospitalized, the issue of drivers not yielding to pedestrians is once again in the spotlight. The Taipei City Government cranked up the crackdown and issued almost 1,300 tickets in less than one month after Loh's unfortunate incident. It is true that motorists must respect pedestrians' right of way, but everyone using the road should be responsible for his own safety. In the same period that police stepped up their crackdown on unyielding motorists, no less than 5,785 pedestrians were fined for violating traffic rules, most of which was for jaywalking. According to the Department of Transportation, between 2007 and 2009, police issued 25,239 tickets for motorists failing to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks but more than 430,000 tickets for pedestrian violations. In that same period, Taipei City Police Department, Traffic Division's records show that around half of all pedestrians involved in traffic accidents between 2007 and 2009 violated traffic laws themselves.

The Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, agreed at the United Nations Economic and Social Council's Conference on Road Traffic in 1968, places the responsibility for traffic safety on not only motorists but also pedestrians. According to excerpts from article 20, “Pedestrians wishing to cross a carriageway shall NOT step on to it without exercising care ... (or) without taking the distance and speed of approaching vehicles into account ... (or) without first making sure that they can do so without impeding vehicle traffic.”

Taiwan is, for obvious reasons, not a signatory party, but there's no reason why the spirit of this treaty cannot be alive and well on this island. Traffic accidents will most likely decrease when both motorists and pedestrians realize that little can be gained by arguing over the legitimacy of their right of way.

1 Comment
June 1, 2010    elumpen@
Not so, China Post. You confuse right-of-way with priority. Cars have priority over pedestrians - the pedestrian must wait until the road is clear before stepping out. Pedestrians have right-of-way once on the road - cars must make allowances for the fact that pedestrians move slowly and may not see every car approaching at speed.

The smooth functioning of the roads depends fundamentally on the priority hierarchy, which varies depending on the situation. Without that, nothing else works, and people making up their own rules (i.e., Blue Truck>Mercedes>Taxi>Scooter) is the reason why Taiwan's road system sucks more out of the economy than it contributes.

Example: the bizarre wait-on-the-right-before-turning-left mechanism for scooters, which I have seen nowhere else in the world, is an implicit acknowledgement that nobody knows how to turn left and is not interested in learning. In most countries, the proper method is implied by giving oncoming traffic priority over turning traffic; therefore, those who wish to turn left must therefore wait and turn behind vehicles going straight. In Taiwan, turning left is a slow and farcical free-for-all, because this priority rule does not exist.

You will also note that Taiwan is built for cars, not people. In most areas, there are no sidewalks. How, then, do you draw a distinction between jaywalking and simply walking - since walking necessarily involves walking on the road?

Taiwan needs a thorough overhaul of its attitude to vehicles and the road system. Tinkering with the rules and handing out a few more tickets is a complete waste of time.

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