Thursday, July 19, 2012

Driving in SoKo

As you remember, I purchased a car a few months ago. I do consider myself a good driver overall, aside from minor scratches, I haven't had accidents or anything of that nature. (ok yes, I had a small accidents back in January in Tijuana, but in my defense the street was not well lit and I didn't see that center-divide thing...nobody was hurt).

Generally speaking, in the U.S when we drive, we think of the word "CAUTION". We look before making a turn. We signal other drivers. We are courteous to other drivers.  We obey lane pattern and traffic lights. Again, all in the sake of being cautious and to avoid accidents.

In Korea, such word does not least for drivers.

I find myself screaming at other drivers more and more because the nonsense doesn't stop.

I do drive in Tijuana, Mexico where, let's be honest, many rules are broken too...Some American drivers (including my sister) are scared to drive down there. So at first I didn't feel like there was that much of a difference, I knew what to look out for. Plus, being a passenger on a taxi or bus I knew that drivers weren't too cautious.

So what kind of crazy stuff happens here?
-For starters, traffic lights and lane patterns are merely suggestions. Everybody does this, even public buses and cops. And I've asked why the cops don't give tickets for this, and my friends tell me it's because they are more concerned with drunk driving than anything else.
-Other drivers will cut you off to go into your lane without signaling. When they want to merge into your lane, they don't wait for a SAFE amount of space between cars. I know this happens in the States too, but here it happens way too often to ignore.
-Drivers don't look out for pedestrians.
-Pedestrians (yes, they too) jump out of nowhere trying to cross the street without looking.
-Drivers don't stop and look when making a right turn. This drives me crazy because it pretty much falls on the drivers of the oncoming traffic to look out for these crazy drivers.
-Cars park where they aren't supposed to, even if it means blocking a FULL lane; so I avoid driving on the far right lane because out of nowhere there will be a car parked.
parked on the right lane, see how they block half of it?

On their defense, parking is not widely available so yes it is hard to find a spot. Also, some lanes are super narrow so two-lane streets often become one-lane streets with two-way traffic.

Parked on sidewalk to go to the bank. I go to this bank too, to I sometimes park on the sidewalk too lol

I drive through this street everyday, see all the cars parked blocking both lanes? So I have to drive in between

parked on the curve...horrible!

On top of all of this, add to the mixture a hierarchy of drivers. It seems to be buses/taxis < delivery scooters/motorcycles < other scooters/motorcycles < ajummas walking < cars < pedestrians/bikes

buses in korea...

I always get scared driving next to a bus because they'll seriously make you move by almost pushing you. If you don't move, you'll be in serious trouble...I can't risk it with Snowball.

One thing I've noticed is that Koreans can't make quick decisions. Now, think about this while applying it to driving. What does that get us? Drivers not knowing where to move quickly if needed; you end up doing that awkward dance with your car of "I turn left, the other driver turns left, I turn right, the other driver turns right"...and this can go on for minutes. And the same happens with pedestrians.

On my driver's ed book, it even said that Koreans have only been driving since recently and thus have not developed the kind of "caution" *cough* common sense *cough* we have.

I don't mean to put all Korean drivers in this category, I just want to point some of the crazy stuff that I've noticed now that I'm driving. Ask any expat in Korea, and they will tell you the same.

Some interesting things about driving in South Korea:
-There are speeding camera EVERYWHERE.
-ALL drivers have to go to driving classes before getting a license.
-At night when cars come a complete stop at a traffic light, drivers turn off their headlights, why? I read that it was to avoid blinding other drivers coming from oncoming traffic....still doesn't make sense to me, just think of the possible accidents this could cause.
-When cars come to a stop, most drivers put their car on "Park", why? No clue.
-Most cars have a navi system...which also serve as TV's, thus TV viewing while driving is common.
-Like I said, cops won't stop you for running a red light, the only thing they care for is stopping drunk drivers.
-You don't have to pump your own gas, there are people who do that. There are self gas stations though. My friend has never pumped her own gas and doesn't know how.
-Seat belts and child car seats are suggestions too.
-When you enter a parking lot (those big ones that are a building), people turn on their hazard lights, why? No clue again

It's going to be weird to drive back home because either I'll want to drive like a Korean (which I started to already), or I'll be confused by all the good driving.


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