CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

The World’s Most Bizarre Traffic Safety Idea

China Daily reports on how primary school students in the county of Guizhou are required to “salute” the drivers of passing cars (I don’t think they’re talking about the one-fingered variety).

Story here or after the jump…


Unnecessary salutation
(China Daily)
Updated: 2008-10-18 08:34

Authorities are using an outdated feudal idea to educate students about how to safely walk on the road, says an article on the website of People’s Daily. The following is an excerpt:

It was reported that Huangping county of Guizhou province has asked primary and secondary school students to salute whenever they see a passing car. In fact, the local government has forced the students to do so since 2004. Now students are well in the habit of saluting passing cars.

If not for the media report, we may not have found out about Huangping county’s ridiculous demand. Actually, the county is not alone. Several similar codes have been imposed by local governments across China in the past years, all requiring students to salute passing cars.

Two reasons lie behind this peculiar etiquette. One is to teach students to be civilized and courteous because saluting cars is deemed respectful to drivers and their passengers. The other is to prevent accidents.

Authorities only have the good intention of educating and protecting their students, but can they really achieve what they intend?

Huangping county’s Education Department head explained: “The promotion of salutation has greatly reduced the number of students playing around on the road; parents and teachers now feel more relaxed as the hidden safety problems have been kept under control”.

It seems that the ruling has helped reduce accidents, but it hasn’t made students more polite.

In the old days, ordinary people had to give way to officials being carried in sedans, as we still see on TV dramas featuring old dynasties. In this context, I feel the ruling of Huangping County is just like old wine in a new bottle – the outmoded idea is still easily identifiable despite its repackaging.

Pedestrians and car drivers are all equal in status and all have the right to use the road. Salutation means obedience instead of equality. Compared with vehicles, pedestrians are in a weaker position. So modern traffic rules usually stipulate that vehicles should give way to pedestrians, not vice versa. The ruling of salutation obviously strengthens the sense of inequality rather than rectifying inequality.

It does make students more obedient. But in those economically backward areas, owning a car is usually a sign of wealth or power. Students may think that they should salute wealthy or powerful people, thus enhancing their sense of humbleness.

In fact, to protect the safety of students, authorities can simply remind them not to play on the road and instead tell them to make gestures to car drivers to try and slow them down. Salutation is unnecessary.

(China Daily 10/18/2008 page4)

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 at 3:48 pm and is filed under Cars, Drivers, Pedestrians, Traffic Culture, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “The World’s Most Bizarre Traffic Safety Idea”

  1. ScottF Says:

    St. Louis shows a pretty large jump. However, that could be skewed by the fact that a large portion of I-64 has been closed since the beginning of this year.

  2. D42 Says:

    ROFL. See, I told you, we would put you on the table. Mew0.
    I think you took my interest rather personally–I am just
    a very magnetically sensitive person–I am requested to work
    in luxury special events because of personal attention I give
    to peeps.

    Also, I would have liked to know if you actually sense a sort
    of physical discipline I pick up from a driver, a repetitive
    motion with the right hand/arm.. which is like doing “heil”.

    With the risk of being rude, the “Alpha” gesture heil hitler
    is of course from a ritual salutation to METAL. Are Volkswagens
    popular in China? What kind of cars do they drive?

  3. Vancouver Hyundai Dealers Says:

    I agree that it should be the vehicles who will give way to pedestrians because pedestrians are in the weaker position and in the event of crash it is usually the pedestrian who gets maimed or killed. There can be other ways to educate people especially in economically and industrially backward areas where people don’t know a driver’s perspective simply because they haven’t driven a car yet. Some pedestrians for example would cross the street leisurely thinking that it is the drivers who alone is responsible for accidents and thus should be the one that must be careful. And children sometimes think that the highways are an extension of their playground. Schools and government should go hand in hand in educating their people with regards to road safety.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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