Tag Archives: Taiwan Traffic

Vignette #18: Surviving Taiwan’s Traffic

Surviving half a life spent on Taiwan’s roadways is no mean accomplishment. My second day in Taipei found me driving a borrowed scooter—barreling through Taipei—trying to keep up with a friend showing me Taipei. He’d been here a long time, knew what he was doing in Taipei traffic, and was going like a bat out of Hell. That was back before the MRT opened, so traffic was much more congested and unruly than its current stateliness. Of course, that was before helmet laws—so I wore nothing but a fearful grimace and blonde hair waving in the wind.

Before setting out, he gave me just one piece of advice: “In Taiwan, the vehicle in front has the right-of-way. If he cuts you off, brakes short, or squeezes you out of your lane it is your job—as the follower—to yield. He has done nothing wrong”. By following this simple rule, traffic moves efficiently, if annoyingly, through Taipei. If you haven’t experienced Taiwanese roadways you need to use your imagination to conceptualize what this rule does to traffic flow. [Incidentally, it also explains pedestrian behavior].

Back in the day, people were so unconcerned about what was happening behind them they used to remove their scooter’s rearview mirrors. They were scared of being disemboweled if thrown over the handlebars, and why care what’s going on behind you? Once in front all others must bow to your will.

Honestly, I’m not sure this is a literal Taiwanese road rule. On the written portion of my Taiwanese driver’s test, I did say the person in front has the right-of-way, but I could’ve got the answer wrong. It is very possible my friend was being hyperbolic. It doesn’t matter. It was the best survival advice I’ve ever received. If you keep this idea in mind while out in Taiwanese traffic you’ll live longer.