By Todd Blackhurst
Driving in Taiwan is very different from most Western countries. You should take every precaution to protect yourself before taking to the road. Here are some suggestions.
- Be fully insured. As an expat, locals will almost always think of you as being wealthy. Insure yourself well above what you think you might need. And always carry third party insurance on any vehicle you own, car or scooter. Here’s the mandarin for this type of insurance: 第三人責任險, third party liability insurance. When you sign up for an insurance policy, find out how to contact them in case of an emergency, get a phone number for an english (or your native language if possible) speaker and ask them if they will send someone to the scene of an accident if you have one to represent you. This is VERY important.
- Get a legal driver’s license. The ONLY driver’s licenses that are considered legal in Taiwan are AAA licenses and Taiwan driver’s licenses. If you are from a country other than the USA, then please check with your representative office here to know which license is recognized in Taiwan. There are now several US states and many other countries that will allow you to exchange your license for a Taiwanese license. You must go through a procedure at the Motor Vehicle office to make the exchange legal. Just because you carry a license that can be exchanged, it is not considered legal. Do the work and get it exchanged for a legal license. If you are in an accident and do not have a valid driver’s license, this will more than likely be used against you.
- Drive carefully – learn the rhythms here and even if you are frustrated and angered by the traffic, don’t allow it to affect how you drive. You will not change how people drive in this culture. It is what it is. You must adjust or you will cause an accident or worse, hurt someone, possibly yourself.
- Be prepared in case of an accident. Call 110 immediately, this is the police. Ask for an English translator to come and help you. Call the foreign affairs office number and speak clearly and slowly, use words like traffic accident, help, assistance, foreigner. Here is the number, please put this in your cell phone: (04) 2327-3875
- The following information assumes the other person is at fault. If you are at fault, you should assume responsibility and allow your insurance company to take care of your case. HOWEVER – DO NOT EVER ADMIT RESPONSIBILITY AT THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT!!! Do not speak to the other person, do not touch anything, do not talk to anyone until the police arrive. Call 110 and wait. The police will dispatch an English speaking interpreter to assist you. Wait until they arrive to start talking.
- If you have a phone or camera, you should immediately begin taking pictures of the entire scene from all angles. This can and probably will be used as evidence by your insurance company and possibly the police. Make sure it is time and date stamped. Do not move your car/scooter until you are instructed to do so by the police. If the other person moves their vehicle, make a video of them doing so.
- Do not communicate with the person who hit you. Say absolutely nothing to them. Do not reply to any question they ask you. Walk away from them and sit on the other side of the street and wait for the police to arrive. This may seem to go against your own cultural norms. You will not help yourself by trying to speak with the person you injured.
- DO NOT ACCEPT a payout at the scene. Sometimes, people will try to offer you some money at the scene of an accident to avoid calling the police. DO NOT DO THIS and DO NOT EXCHANGE INFORMATION until the police arrive.
- Do not touch them if they’re injured. They or their family may try to sue you for something. This has happened here and it is possible. (This is completely counterintuitive to what we do in the west – but please follow these instructions)
- When the police arrive, first, ask for them to call for the foreigner representative if they have not already done so. Don’t say anything until this person arrives. Ask them to do a complete investigation.
- Make a claim against the other person asking for damages. If you feel the police report is inaccurate, you can go to the police station and ask for it to be re-investigated for a fee. When you make a statement, use math and logic as well as ask questions that are rhetorical. Also give questions in numerical order. (Investigating officers are sometimes unclear as to how the traffic accident transpired. They are not taught about the laws of physics regarding accidents and vehicles, so you should make sure the report is clear). If the officer investigating the accident misrepresents the scene in his/her report, your case will be lost.
- If is common for the police and court to bring in a negotiator. Listen to their case and see what they are willing to offer. Do not give them information about your case. You can decline the initial offer. This is where it is very helpful to have a Taiwanese friend to help you. If you deny the initial offer, you will then be asked to have a second negotiation or go directly to court. At this point, you must decide how you want to proceed.
- The judge doesn’t want to find the Taiwanese at fault. He/she will probably ask to see if it can’t be resolved outside of the court. The system will work very hard for a resolution outside of the court system.
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