Quantitative Analysis

The last week, I almost got hit by a car and a moped. The car I caught out of the corner of my eye as I was crossing the street on green, and I stopped as he accelerated into a turn. The moped misjudged my speed as I was on my bicycle and cut in front of me as I was going straight and he made a right turn.

People make turns across the street differently here, when making a left turn in the states or a right turn Japan, drivers head out in the center of the intersection, staying in their own lane, and then turn a sharp 90 degrees. In Taiwan, they start edging into the lane of oncoming traffic as soon as they get into the intersection, forcing oncoming traffic to stop, instead of waiting for an opening.

Yesterday we were running tests at a customer site, and a co-worker asked me why I didn’t drive. Drive? I said. I barely dare to walk.

Today we ran more tests, and I found myself bitching about the dishes at the restaurant that we ate at being not properly washed, the shakiness of the elevator as it descended despite the prominently posted inspection schedule, and how I have to sleep with earplugs because otherwise, I wake up to the woman next door screaming at her husband, the motorcycles in the alley in front of my house, the sports cars in back of my house, or the children upstairs running. He said, well, it’s better than Japan, where people hold so much in that they kill themselves. His point was that people in Taiwan make a tradeoff. They pay less attention, but killing themselves less, and things are better overall. So I thought – is it really “better”?

So here are some statistics comparing Japan and Taiwan, with Hong Kong and the USA included for comparison. Rates are per 100,000.

Suicides Year Road Fatalities Year Total
Japan 21.4 2013 4.8 2012 26.2
Taiwan 15.1 2011 15.0 2012 30.1
Hong Kong 12.3 2011 1.8 2013 14.1
United States 12.5 2012 11.6 2012 24.1


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