I was having a conversation with a girl with a pair (or maybe more) of dirty shoes about how kind Japanese drivers are and she suggested this would be something interesting to share. So here it is.
Singapore drivers are really frightening. They swear and curse at other drivers who simply cut into their lanes even if the other party wasn’t reckless. They tailgate drivers who are slow to pressure them into switching lane to give way to them. They sound the horn to display their anger, flash the high beam to pick a fight, and hit sudden brakes to piss off drivers behind them who pissed them off earlier.
Since I’ve been driving in Japan for so many years now, I have not driven in Singapore at all. Granted, the amount of time I spend in Singapore is few and far between, but even during the few times when I get the opportunity to drive, I would decline because I really dislike handling a vehicle on a road full of Singapore drivers. I’m not saying our drivers are the worst, but when compared with the Japanese, I think we all have a lot to learn.
1) Activating hazard lights to say thank you
Here in Japan, you see people cooperating and giving way more than people who speed up so that others don’t cut into their lanes. When there is a traffic jam on a two-lane street with one lane blocked, the cars on each lane would take turns to proceed. Once, when I was waiting to get out of a service area along an expressway which was facing very bad congestion due to accidents some many kilometers away, the queue to get out was very long. To make things worse, while I was queuing in the line of vehicles going out from the parking lot, another line of vehicles formed from those going out from the gas station. So, there was the parking lot queue (P) and the gas station queue (G). The Japanese people were very cooperative. One vehicle from queue P would move out and the next vehicle would let one vehicle from queue G move out. And this would continue with each queue taking turns to have one vehicle proceed out, all these without anyone directing the traffic.
During a jam on the expressway as cars start to get on the freeway at a merge, vehicles at the lane right next to the merge would do the same. One car already on the expressway would proceed and the next vehicle to move forward would be the joining vehicle and so on and so forth.
Each time a vehicle is given the way to join the other lane to proceed, upon completion of the lane switch, the driver would turn on the hazard light for a second or two as a sign of appreciation to the vehicle behind for letting them into the lane. It’s such a common practice, one would think hazard lights here are more often used to say thank you than to signal a stopping vehicle.
2) Flashing the high beam to give way
In many circumstances, when drivers want to give way, they signal by flashing the high beam here. For example, you are driving on a two-way street (one-lane each) and you need to make a right turn into a small road. So you stop and wait for the vehicles on the other lane traveling in the opposite direction to be gone or for the next vehicle to be far away enough for you to make the turn. If you see someone on the other lane high beam at you, it is a signal for you to turn in. They are letting you know you can turn in because they are slowing down for you.
Likewise, when you are at a carpark and you see a lot available around a bend. So you move past the lot to reverse in. Just then, a vehicle joins from the back not realizing you are in front and wanted to park into the lot. But they then see your vehicle in front. You do not move just in case they don’t stop and you could crash into them. They would then flash the high beam to indicate that you can proceed because they will wait.
Or, when you’re moving out from a parking lot and another vehicle also moved out from their lot and are driving past you to get to the exit. As they proceed near you, they noticed you are going to move out from your lot as well. They would stop and flash the high beam to tell you you can proceed out first.
3) Sounding the horn to say thank you
In the first situation mentioned above in #2 on the high beam, if you noticed, the road is single lane each direction. So, when you wait to make the right turn, there could be vehicles behind waiting for you since they couldn’t overtake your vehicle. In this situation, you would want to thank both the driver on the opposite lane for letting you turn in, and also the driver behind for waiting patiently. In this case, drivers would sound the horn in a quick short beep to thank both drivers in front and behind them.
All these are unthinkable on Singapore roads. Not only do we not use these methods to thank people or give way to them, we use them to display aggression. In my almost 8 years here in Japan, having ridden in countless people’s vehicles, never have I once heard them swear or curse even if the other party nearly caused an accident by driving too close or switching lanes too suddenly. When things like that happen, the Japanese people are grateful that accidents didn’t happen and choose to focus on the positive side of things.
Perhaps more than just the diet, the positive thought is one reason for Japanese people’s longevity.