Indonesia Anonymus

We are a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.
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Anonymus is the Latin word for anonymous, the correct English spelling. The Latin spelling, however, is traditionally used by scholars in the humanities to refer to an ancient writer whose name is not known, or to a manuscript of their work. Read more at Wikipedia.

Our blog in Bahasa Indonesia (but rarely updated) can be found here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Stop sign? What stop sign?

We are not trying to be cynical or deluding ourselves at the same time when we say this: Jakarta motorists are both the worst and the best drivers. The worst because you know why, and the best because despite all the chaos, we seem to manage to arrive at our destination in one piece.

Well, not all the time, apparently.

According to Suara Merdeka, 90.000 people were killed in traffic accident in 2004 [1].

No surprise, considering our rules of driving consist of the following (we got this from the website of Robert Peterson, who writes about how to drive in Cairo [2]. We plucked some parts that we thought are appropriate and adjust it to the Jakarta situation) :

Rules of driving:

  • All lanes are available for your use, especially the lanes with the oncoming traffic; "Chicken" is not a game here, it's a way of life.
  • When there is contention for a lane between oncoming cars, the first car to flash their lights, wins.
  • All lines painted on the road are purely decorative; ignore them.
  • Octagonal stop signs and speed limit signs are also decorative; ignore them.
  • The police are the men on every corner dressed in brown. They are also decorative; ignore them.
  • Traffic lights are simple to read: Green means "go". Yellow means "honk". Red means "prepare to honk".

Sounds familiar?

So here's a question for us Jakarta motorists : Are we bad drivers? Well, we don't blame you if you don't admit it. Statistically speaking, 88% of adults think of themselves as careful drivers, but only 17% consider other motorists as equally careful [3]. So when it comes to bad driving, we tend to blame others.

But let's admit it. We are.

What turn us into bad drivers ?
Well, since we cannot blame ourlselves, let's find some other excuses. Maybe it's our parents. One research says "young drivers are more likely to develop bad driving habits if their parents are bad drivers" [4].

Or is it our hormone.... ? Scientists from the University of Giessen, Germany said bad driving is 'linked to hormones'[5].

Or maybe because we smell... ? The RAC Foundation said 'bad' odors may cause bad driving [6].

Naaah. Let's stop kidding ourselves.

According to Freakonomics [7], everything is about incentives. Hence rewards and punishments. There is simply not enough reward in following the rules, and the punishments are, well, need we say more. Have you ever given way to other motorists? In Jakarta, when you give way, you GIVE way. You will never get it back. That's your reward for being nice.
Lack of tolerance + lack of infrastructure + corrupt policemen. That's the formula. Even Harry Potter's professor won't mix these into a potion.

So what should we do?
Well, we almost thought out another experiment. We thought: Let's ask a blind person* to take a driving test. Let's see how corrupt our government is.
That would make great headlines, wouldn't it ? A blind person got a driver's license... Maybe after that things will change for the better.
But no. We are not going to do that. To be honest, we don't think we want to know the result.

So what can we do?
Right now? Let's take one factor out of that formula. Let's be more tolerant to one another. Let's give way. Let's take turn. Have a heart.
After all, driving is not a competition. There is no win or lose. If we take our turns, we all will reach our destination faster.

Let's start now. Together.

[1] Suara Merdeka - Setahun 90.000 Orang Korban Kecelakaan
[2] Robert Peterson - How to Drive in Cairo
[3] The Hartford - When It Comes to Bad Driving, 'It's Always the Other Guy'
[4] Irish Health - Young copy parents' bad driving - study
[5] BBC News - Bad driving 'linked to hormones'
[6] MSNBC - 'Bad' odors may cause bad driving
[7] Freakonomics Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, ISBN 006073132X

* Note to sensitive readers:
By mentioning a blind person, we do not have any intention whatsoever of disrespect to the disabled. We respect our fellow citizens who are less fortunate as much as we acknowledge that people with such disability should not and would not drive.


Blogger Admin said...

True, let's just control the only thing we can control of, our own behaviors. Let's be conscious of our actions because it does feel good when we do something good even when noone knows about it. It has to come from within, right?

I agree also about no rewards available for anything good people do on the streets. In any systems I've been, I saw a lot of punishments and not enough (never enough) rewards for positive behaviors. I guess it's automatic to think that "well..we should know better, therefore we shouldn't be rewarded for doing right in the first place." But that's not educational for a lot of people out there. We need to feel good first before we want to do more good things, so it's nice to hear compliments or getting little rewards to make us feel good. Then I'm sure more and more people will do more and more goods if we apply "positive re-inforcement."

I can talk and write more about this. It's my field, this human behaviors :-) I stop here this time :-D

3:12 PM  
Blogger Ace said...

Good post on local motoring. It is true that driving on our streets can feel like driving through a war zone. Everyone has their own agenda and will do whatever it takes to meet it. I lost 2 friends a few years ago when a truck made an illegal U-turn on a 2 way road. Its sad knowing that their parents dont have them around anymore because the truck driver was too lazy to take the next exit to make a turn.

P.S - Good to see you have comments turned on.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't dare to drive in Jakarta or anywhere near. Once we went from Sukabumi to Pelabuhan Ratu in a van and I saw those people coming from both side of our vehicle going really fast on their motor cycles! One of the cycles with two people on it couldn't make it, they fell and they simply got up, picked up their motor cycle,went over to the side of the road and continued on riding. I grew up in Sukabumi, I think we should go back to riding in "sado" or "delman" a horse drawn buggy. However, here in Las Vegas, there are people who run the stop sign as well.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Nad said...

First, thanks for this great post--one of the most beautifully written pieces of writing I’ve read these days. Now, on the content: to say it merely entertaining would be an understatement. I have always thought the traffic condition in one country as representing in its microcosm the general living condition in that country. This is purely based on hunch, but a social study confirming this would bring important consequences on how we look at traffic jams.

A quick look at the general chaos, violation, public impunity, discrimination, poor planning, corrupt behavior, violence etc that is happening every time every day in the streets of Jakarta (or other cities in Indonesia) will show us it is no different from what happens in other facets of life. Show me I err in my judgment that they aren’t interrelated here, and I’d stop bloggin! Were I president, I would combat corruption (one of the biggest problems in Indonesia, remember) right from there.

Some people can't tell the right from the left. Well, many of us drivers or motorists don't know the right from wrong! And as many don't care. As for the carrot and stick issue, lest we forget, being right is a virtue in itself.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Caracas drivers are rather spectacular too. All rules of the road are strictly guidelines and drivers must keep one hand on cellphone and other hand on blackberry when in heavy conditions.

7:16 AM  

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