May 24, 2002, 6:50pm
I recently completed two trips this past month, and I have one serious observation to make about driving skills.
You know, you get so ingrained with where you live, and when you're driving, you tend to see so many bonehead moves on the road that many people come to the conclusion that they have the worst drivers on the planet. And if you come from another part of the world, you tend to wax poetic about how good the drivers were where you came from. In many cases, this is a situation of selective memory, and remembering only the good stuff from the past.
In my case, it isn't. Richmond BC, and to a lesser extent, Vancouver BC really does have the worst drivers in Canada, if not in North America. My trip to LA and Aneheim showed that by and large, people down there were intelligent, aware drivers.
But it was my trip to Ottawa and Montreal that showed me just how bad drivers are in Richmond. Insanely bad. Courtesy and intelligence on the road is par for the course in Ottawa. In Montreal, drivers are much more aggressive, but they still pay attention to what's around them and do follow "the rules".
In Richmond? Give me a break.
Two things stand out showing how bad, how uncourteous, and how "living in the bubble" Richmond drivers really are.
First up is what I've called "The Richmond Turn". You know how when you turn right from a four lane road onto another four lane road, you are supposed to turn into the far right side (curb side) lane, right? Not so in Richmond. The majority of people (I'm not exaggerating here) make a right hand turn and swing out into the middle (or left) lane. Constantly.
And people who are turning left from a four lane road onto a four lane road are supposed to turn into the middle (closest to the center median) lane, right? Not so in Richmond - they swing out into the curb lane more often than not.
This is a major problem, and the cause of many accidents and near accidents I've witnessed. I've almost been hit myself several times because when I make a right hand turn, I go into the right side curb lane, but some left hand turning person will try to swing out into my lane as well, almost hitting me. Ditto for when I make a left hand turn and go into the median, or centre lane, only to have some idiot turning right swinging into the same lane. And they have the gall to shout obsceneties at me, when they are the one breaking the driving laws.
In Ottawa, LA, Montreal and Aneheim, people by and large follow this driving rule - swing into the proper lane, the one closest to your turn. In Ottawa, I had absolutely no fear of someone turning opposite from me and swinging into my lane during the turn - it simply doesn't happen... and if it did, the person breaking the driving rule would be yelled at and scorned.
The second example of completely idiotic driving is the "tourist driver". The person who crawls along at 20 kph on a 60kph street because they are looking for an address, or in some clueless personal reverie. And I got news for you. These people aren't tourists - they live here. But they drive like tourists, plowing along in their own little world, without a care about the traffic around them.
In fact, that is part and parcel of a major problem with Richmond drivers - far too many of them live in a world of their own, believing nobody is sharing the road with them, and acting as if they are completely unawares of their surroundings. Going at 20kph in a 60 zone, or running a yellow light when they see someone waiting to make a left turn, or blowing through stop signs, or not yielding to pedestrians is far too common in Richmond.
In Ottawa, the opposite is true. Ottawa is Canada's biggest tourist town, but you won't find many "tourist driver" examples outside of the core around the Byward Market or in front of the Parliament buildings. People there look for things as much as people in Richmond do, but in Ottawa, in Montreal and other cities, people are more intelligent about it, and most importantly: they are aware of traffic around them.
Other things stood out as well. Like the almost complete propensity for drivers to remain in the right lane on highways unless they want to pass - normal for Ontario, out of the ordinary for Vancouver and Richmond. People know how to parallel park into the tightest spots in Ottawa... I saw it in the Byward Market constantly. In Vancouver? They sometimes don't even test it in the driving test!
It all comes down to simple things: courtesy for other drivers. Intelligence and common sense behind the wheel. The knowledge that you are operating something weighing thousands of pounds, at fast speeds. And to be frank, there isn't an epidemic of "bribe-bought licenses" in Ontario like there is in Richmond. For years there was a Triad-run scam where people who could never get their driving licenses simply bribed officials in the Richmond branch of the Motor Vehicles Department to get their licenses. This is well documented in Vancouver press and took place between 1989 and 1995, the prime years of immigration influx from Hong Kong. It probably still goes on today judging by the quality of drivers on the road.
I'm not making this out to be a racist thing - just as many gweilos (the Cantonese word for white folks - loosely translated it means white barbarian) in Richmond are bad drivers as the HK immigrant population. What I am saying is this - Richmond BC, and to a lesser extent, Vancouver BC, has the absolutely worst overall driver contingent in this country, if not on the continent. My trip back to my old home town just confirmed this.
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