I have been in three major car accidents in my life.
Pixar's A Bug's Life and I was driving his diesel Volkswagen pick up truck while he was gone. I was making a left hand turn into a parking lot, and the line of cars coming toward me all stopped to let me go. A boy who had just turned 18 and filled the family car with a bunch of his teenage friends went out joyriding. Seeing the line of stopped cars and not wanting to wait, he illegally passed all the stopped cars driving about 45 MPH in the gutter on the right. I was halfway through the turn and he T-boned my truck. The impact sent the truck sliding into a curb, where it flipped up and hit a concrete post and then slammed back into the street. The impact broke the front axle and all the glass in the truck. Amazingly it did not break me, though I spent months in physical therapy and still have residual pain in my back from the impact to this day. The boy and his car and all of his teenage friends escaped damage, thank goodness.
So what do all these accidents have in common?
After the third accident, we said no more and went out and bought a Saturn followed by a string of Toyotas. No more Volkswagen for me! So imagine my dismay when we moved to Shanghai and found that all the taxis are made by Volkswagen!
Yesterday our family and our guest, Andrew, took off for a location about an hour of the Shanghai city center. We took the Metro train as far as we could, and then hopped in a taxi to go the doorstep of our destination. Most cars here don't have seat belts in the backseat, certainly not taxis. This was also the case in Macau, so nothing new here really. While Andrew has been visiting, we've been cramming the four of us into the back seat, putting Ben on Michael's lap, and then letting Andrew sit in the front next to the driver (which has a seat belt about 60% of the time). We've seen taxis jammed with even more than five passengers, so beyond an initial thought of, "we could never get away with this in the States," I haven't thought much about it at all. My biggest worry is more about how if/when we return to the States, how will we all get used to the mandatory wearing of seat belts once again?
After our day of fun, we all went to jump in a taxi. For the first time ever, the taxi driver refused to take five passengers. Since we were at a hotel and the desk could call us a second taxi, we just had Michael and the boys head to the train station in the first taxi while Andrew and I waited for the next one. We waited quite some time before our ride arrived. We never even got off the hotel lot before our taxi and an electric motorbike carrying two non-helmeted passengers collided with a loud thud. I looked out my driver's side rear window to see a mangled motorbike, a tangle of legs, a woman's bare behind (her skirt was around her waist), and blood. I couldn't open my door without hitting the pile of bike and bodies, so I pushed Andrew quickly out his passenger side door.
Before either my mom or Andrew's mom reads this and freaks out, let me just say that we are all okay. No damage to us, not even mild whiplash. I think I smacked my arm against either my door or the Plexiglas back of the driver's seat, but it all happened so fast and I had a quick moment of panic that we'd actually ran over them that I didn't really notice.
After we got out of the taxi and I heard the woman moaning and saw the man moving a bit with blood on his face, I left Andrew and raced back to the hotel lobby to tell them about the accident. Since they'd just seen me leave in a taxi after telling the driver our destination in Chinese, they all smiled and said, "You are going to the train station!" It took a bit of charades and finally a tug on their arm to get them to come with me. I didn't know if we'd need to stay for the police or if we could just go. I handed over a pack of tissues to both the man and the woman and then the hotel employee herded Andrew and I back to the hotel entrance to get a second taxi. We didn't protest.
As our next driver passed the first by, we saw the man on his feet smoking a cigarette, tissues pressed to the bleeding wound on his forehead. Andrew said the bone had come through on impact with the side of the taxi, but I tried not to look. The taxi had a sizeable indentation along the driver's side and the lady was rubbing her ankle. We made it safely the rest of the short ride to the train station and told Michael all about the craziness. And I felt immense gratitude that though quite minor, Nathan and Benjamin weren't in the car with us!
Every single day here I see crazy dangerous driving and I continually wonder why we never actually see any car accidents. Thanks to the little collision yesterday, I can no longer say I've never seen an accident here! Calm, quiet Andrew just shrugged and said, "That was quite an adventure."
Glad the adventure will continue another day for all of us!