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…
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Authorities are using an outdated feudal idea to educate students about how to safely walk on the road, says an article on the website of People’s Daily.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)
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.