Why We Should Adopt Japanese Driving Etiquette
Etiquette is described as “the customary code of polite behaviour”, but as far as driving goes, etiquette is not part of the traffic laws that govern our conduct on the road. The Japanese are well known and revered for their culture of respect and conscientiousness, something we could all get a little more acquainted with and possibly adopt.
We have often groused about inconsiderate or incompetent drivers in parking situations, ranging from drivers who take up more than their fair share of a parking lot, to those who leave their vehicles parked by the side of a road, impervious to the obstructions they may cause.
In Japan, it is customary to park in reverse, especially when you’re parking in a public parking lot. This makes maneuvering out of your space quicker and easier. It is also illegal to park by the roadside, unless there are signs to indicate that you may do so.
Often abused in wet weather conditions in our country, the hazard light is used by the Japanese only in the case of an emergency, or blinked once or twice to thank others when they let you into a lane. It is also used as a warning when sharp drops in speed happens because of traffic congestion ahead.
We are no stranger to misused horning, so much that it has become our vehicle’s mouthpiece - used to chastise other drivers or vent our anger at road misdemeanours or errant driving. In Japanese driving etiquette, they use their horns to alert drivers or to get their attention, as they consider it a social offence and refrain from blaring it loudly. Brief horns indicate gratitude for being given right of way.
Drunk driving goes beyond etiquette as it is illegal in any country. However, its rules are implemented differently worldwide, and have a way of influencing cultural practices as well. In Japan, their DUI laws indicate that if you are found driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of just 0.03%, you could be confined for up to 3 years of fined up to $4,400. To further discourage the practice of intoxicated driving, even passengers in the vehicle of an intoxicated driver are slapped with heavy penalties for allowing their companion behind the wheel. Restaurants and bars are not exempt either, as they too will also be held responsible for providing a person with alcohol if they subsequently get charged with intoxication behind the wheel.
Adopting better road practices will lead to a better and safer experience for everyone. As the oft-heard but rarely heeded saying goes, “be the change that you wish to see in the world”!