Totaled Again!

No one should ever have to celebrate a birthday in the emergency room. But that is exactly what I did this past May 16th on my 47th birthday. I was put there because a reckless driver slammed into my already “totaled” car. My car is now truly totaled.

I can’t give any details because my case is still under investigation. But I will say this. This is the second accident in less than six months for me. The first one was a rear end collision with a commercial truck (see Totaled). Ironically my first accident was in vicinity of another accident that happened the following day on May 17th, the day after my birthday. That accident took the lives of three people needlessly.

I use to live in China. I lived there for fourteen years. In all those years I was indirectly involved in just one accident.

One.

I was a passenger on a bus heading to Shanghai. I was sitting in the middle of the bus and was just anticipating my day when I heard a big WHAM in the back of the bus.

The driver pulled over to the side of the road and ordered all of his passengers off the bus. We waited on the side of the tree lined road for another bus to take us.

Exactly what made that WHAM? Two riders on a motorcycle collided with the bus. The driver and his female passenger were very lucky. They were not seriously hurt. The woman was clearly shaken and the man had a few cuts and bruises.

Their motorcycle however, was not so lucky. Half of it was pinned underneath the bus.

In this country I have encountered more reckless drivers than in China. I’ve seen drivers overtake six cars in one go in the presence of oncoming traffic. I’ve had cars pass me on the shoulder in front of a sign that says “no passing on shoulder”. I have also gotten stuck in a long line of cars due to a container blocking the road and I have seen motorcyclists weave in and out of cars – no helmets – into oncoming traffic. These are accidents just waiting to happen. I was told that the deadly May 17th crash was due to speed and a vehicle over taking other vehicles.

Someone was late to work.

In China I’ve had taxi drivers drive into oncoming traffic. I’ve encountered drivers on their phones. I’ve even ridden in cars where there are no seat belts.

Yet I’ve had no serious accidents other than the one I just mentioned.

Why? In a country where we’ve had a car culture since the turn of the 20th century why am I encountering more reckless drivers in my own country where we also have better safety standards? Drivers in China could be forgiven for driving recklessly because they haven’t had a car driving culture as long as the US. They drive their cars like they do with their bikes. They attempt to park their cars on sidewalks as if they were parking a bicycle.

China does have its share of car accidents. Before I left there was a story of a crash that involved school children. They were on a mian bao che or a mini bus on their way home from school. The bus was over crowded. People were even sitting on stools in the aisle thus blocking their escape route. The driver was also reported to be on medication thus his ability to drive the vehicle safely was compromised. As a result he accidentally drove the bus into a ravine killing everyone.

The Ministry of Education was looking into ways to make travel safer for children. They were looking into purchasing US style school buses equipped with seat belts and a stop sign.

But ultimately safety depends on the driver. As I was listening to the story I thought you can have all the safety gadgets in the world but ultimately it depends on the driver.

Safety ultimately relies on the driver.

Graduation season is upon us. With all the pomp and circumstance ceremonies comes the graduation parties where alcohol may be served. So here are some of my safety tips to keep people on the roads safe.

  1. If you are going to drink select a designated driver before partying.
  2. Leave home early for work. Plan ahead.
  3. No texting, talking, or using a portable device while driving.
  4. Buckle up. In Hawaii it’s the LAW!

I’ll add one more traffic accident story.

While traveling through Inner Mongolia my tour guide and I came across a burned out truck on the side of the road. Behind this truck was a sign that explained what had happened to that vehicle. This sign included very graphic pictures of the accident. The police had placed that truck in an effort to convince people to drive safely.

So I’m going to take a page out of the Chinese traffic police play book and post pictures of my now totaled car as a reminder to please drive with aloha.

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