Saturday, October 21, 2006

Rules of the road

One reason I started making these posts is that I figured it would be easier to keep track of stuff and so, thanks to the ol' technorati blog search, it looks like I've been driving in Korea for about 45 days.

I haven't been driving everyday but I have driven to Seoul, Daejeon, Suji and all around Cheonan. In a moment I will share my rules of the road, but first here is some advice for foreigners driving in Korea.

Pay no heed to the honking horns, nobody else does, and if you do you will more than likely wind up driving many kilometers out of your way or get into an accident!

Remember those lousy Asian drivers that everybody complains about in your home country? Watch out! Now you are surrounded by thousands of them.

Be careful!

Here are the rules of the road in Korea as I have so far been able to determine:

  • You must come to a complete stop at a red light, unless you are a taxi, bus or truck driver. In which case you may stop or not, as your mood and situation dictates. The first 5 non-commercial vehicles to come to a red light may pass through the intersection without reducing speed or stopping. However, keep in mind that if you come to a red light and you happen to be in front of a bus, taxi or truck you will be pushed into the intersection or, if you have very good brakes, you may just get your back end all dented up.

  • Nobody needs to stop at a red light that is intended merely for pedestrian crossings. Of course, running over pedestrians is frowned upon, but slowing down as you pass under the red light is still optional.

  • You cannot make a left turn without a green left arrow, unless you are in a rush or are getting bored of waiting.

  • Right turns can be made at red lights no stopping or slowing down required. DO NOT stop at a red lighted intersection if you are in the right lane (if you do, you will be sorry)!

  • If you come to an uncontrolled intersection the largest vehicle has the right of way.

  • If you drive a bus or a truck use your hazard lights instead of signal indicators. This way you have everybody on the road driving very cautiously around you trying to predict when you will turn left, turn right, stop or go.

  • There is no need to signal when you change lanes and doing so in the middle of an intersections is encouraged. Cutting other vehicles off is a good way to give other drivers the opportunity to test their brakes and reaction speed -- do it as often as possible.

  • When you are turning or changing lanes DO NOT shoulder check! I think this rule is an unwritten one.

  • In a graded (i.e. flat) parking lot you may park perpendicular to 'normally' parked vehicles (blocking them in) as long as you leave your vehicle out of gear and do not engage your parking break. This way the people who are blocked-in may simply push your car out of the way when they wish to leave their parking spot.
  • Always have your cell phone number on display on your dashboard (preferable have the number stitched into a tiny pillow with the words Choesong humnida 'sorry'). This way people can let you know if they want you to move your car instead of having it towed.
  • Watching TV and talking on your cell phone is a nice way to pass the 3 to 5 minute wait at a red lighted intersection.
  • Seat belts and headlights are ALWAYS optional.

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