Thursday, December 8, 2011

People in the Streets

One thing that has been gradually annoying me more and more is the state of roads in Fukushima, along with the mindset of the people who drive upon them.

This is a picture of a typical road where I live. Note: lack of a railing on the side of the road. Lack of a pullover area on the side of the road. Lack of any lines denoting the middle of the road, or whether passing is permitted. Sharp turns without warning signs. A steep drop-off to your left, which would leave you in the middle of a rice field. No light fixtures whatsoever, whether they be traffic lights or street lights.

Yes, this represents an average commute for me. Now, imagine that the road is wet, slick with freshly fallen rain. It is pitch black outside, because after 5pm the sun is on its way to the good ol' USA. The driver coming the opposite direction thinks that his brights need to be turned on at all times, even when he is driving toward another motorist. This represents an average evening commute for me.

As you might imagine, it gets frustrating after a while. It is much more dangerous than driving in my hometown, I assure you. But the dangers don't stop here! Plenty can also be attributed to the other motorists themselves, and their disregard for even a semblance of safe driving. Driving twice the posted speed limit. Passing cars on two lane highways in no passing zones. Tail-gating through winding mountain roads. Driving through stop signs. Breaking suddenly to make a sharp turn. Turning from a parking lot into traffic without regard for said traffic. Turning on their hazards, in the middle of their lane, and exiting their vehicle to buy a soda from a convenience store. Yes, this happens.

I wish I could say these are not indicative of the drivers where I live, but it is. More often than not, drivers in my village will pull these stunts, putting both me and other drivers at risk. It makes me wonder what sorts of things they teach at driving school in Japan. Do they teach you how to brake? It's true that every country with roads has its share of bad drivers. But I believe my little Japanese village of 7,000 people has a much higher percentage of bad drivers than my hometown in Oregon of 36,000.

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