A Brief Description
of Taiwan Driving
The old saying, "Never trust a salesman" would never be much truer than here then.
A.C. recommends car purchases based on the condition of vehicles and not based on the data specifics provided by sellers. This may be a slightly different approach to the method of evaluating a vehicle in a developed country, but it is far more practical in this case.
Again when it comes to purchasing, a buyer may want to go with a trusted professional who can weed out faults and can provide an accurate report on the overall vehicle status, rather than otherwise taking the often pot-luck approach of many non professional purchasers.
Although many wish to take advantage of their vehicle purchase to visit places and generally get around Taiwan, it may be prudent to check out some of the finer points of driving on the island.
Topography and the Weather
Taiwan is a very mountainous island with ridges taking up the majority of the centre of the main island. Many of these ridges are extremely steep and are comprised of varying layers and types of dirt and rock materials.
Taiwan drivers generally consider the laws of the road as only a rough guide and frequently disobey these laws and regulations by employing their own unique driving styles, encouraged by a lack of policing and enforcement. Common practices which can be immediately noticed when arriving in Taiwan may be, running of amber and red lights, parking in no parking zones, not indicating when turning or changing lanes, tailgating, cutting up other vehicles without warning, undertaking, speeding, illegal U turns, turning over double yellow lines, failing to give way, using pedestrian areas as alternative routes or for parking, failing to obey one way signs, failing to use appropriate lanes, failing to restrain children and adults within a vehicle, not giving way to pedestrians and more.
Newcomers to Taiwan should expect a traffic environment largely unrivalled in many areas of the world and should spend time becoming acquainted with it before taking control of their own vehicle.
It is advantageous to know that the actual government car inspection comprises of only minimum checks and does not consider many safety related systems such as airbags, seatbelts, chassis/body integrity, condition of fuel systems, brake systems, cooling systems, engine systems, transmission systems, tyres, brake linings, joints, couplings and more. In fact the inspection basically checks that all four brakes work, the exterior lights illuminate, the front wheels are aligned and that emissions are within standards as well as the vehicle being "original" in specification (which so far seems quite vague in meaning).
We strongly advise all used car purchasers to use a professional inspection and to not solely rely on the government standard of inspection to qualify the usability and safe function of any motor vehicle.
Garages and Sales
Used cars are most commonly purchased from used car dealers. Dealers of course have a worldwide reputation for not always being particularly honest, and that may also be the case in Taiwan. Vehicle information offered online regarding prices and availabilities are often unclear or simply untrue. Typically it is our experience that specifically vehicles advertised in distant locations such as Taichung, Kaoshung and such frequently are advertised falsely and the information of these vehicles advertised is often misleading or untrue. Often even the vehicles advertised may not even exist. These advertisements are commonly designed to entice buyers to distant locations that they otherwise might not consider.
Even odometer (mileage) readings are commonly tampered with and methods of recourse may be limited.
Rock falls and mudslides are common during earthquakes and typhoons that the island experiences frequently. These events can from time to time cause severe damage to property as well as roads and are also frequently responsible for losses of life. A.C. recommends that travellers always follow weather reports and government advice when preparing for outings and never travel around mountainous or low level areas during periods of heavy rains or winds. Roads can often be swept away during heavy weather periods, mountainsides can give way and low-level areas may go underwater. It is common during periods of heavy rain that the government tow cars from low level riverside areas and allow drivers to park on high level roads and bridges for the duration of some severe weather periods. Check whether your area is susceptible to common flooding and take appropriate action to store belongings out of reach from potential floodwaters as well as maintain your own personal safety.
Drivers and their habits
As well as the precarious nature of the weather that Taiwan can experience from time to time, the island also offers its own unique 'driving culture'. Although Taiwan is a developing nation it still has a lot to learn in terms of driving etiquette and techniques. The standard driving test in Taiwan is quite farcical by comparison to many developed Western country styles and does not require a driver to cope in a busy traffic system. It neither demands any level of defensive driving techniques and only demands the lowest level of common sense. Testing is usually rehearsed on an empty lot comprised of obstacles and challenges, although few of these are relative to the real world of driving on a Taiwanese road.
Government Vehicle Inspections
When hoping to purchase a used vehicle in Taiwan it also pays to be very well prepared. Vehicles under five years old are not obliged to be taken for any type of yearly comprehensive inspection unless stolen-recovered or going through change of ownership. As a comparison, there are presently over 600,000 cars in Taipei yet only 3 percent of the few vehicles inspected annually actually fail an inspection on average, as opposed to the 30 percent of all passenger vehicles, new and old in the U.K. every year. This of course results in many dangerous vehicles in various states of disrepair, which can be a great cause of concern for potential purchasers and drivers of these vehicles.