Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Traffic Court Justice

I apologize for the thundering silence on this blog recently. I've been preoccupied with family matters, winter blahs, and writer's block -- especially that last thing.

I was just thinking about a conversation I had with one of the USTDC lawyers, an Air Force captain whose name I've long since forgotten. We were discussing an auto accident in which an American military guy driving home from work was hit by a Taiwanese, who was riding a motorcycle.

I don't know about today, but in 1973-1974 there were separate lanes reserved for bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles on the major thoroughfares of Taipei. They were usually separated from the streets by fences or traffic islands, with openings every few yards to get on and off the thoroughfare.

In this case, the American automobile driver was making a left turn at night, which of course involved crossing the motorcycle lane on that side. The motorcycle rider did not have his headlights on. The driver didn't see him and the cycle ran into the car, killing the rider.

According to my friend, a case like this would normally be resolved under Taiwan law as follows:
  • The American driver would be charged with vehicular homicide (or something similar) because he was crossing the motorcycle lane. Never mind the fact that he couldn't see the cyclist.
  • He would be fined and sentenced to a lengthy jail term.
  • He would also be ordered to pay monetary restitution to the victim's family.
The actual result, according to my friend, was normally something like this:
  • The driver would be released by the Taiwan police immediately after the trial.
  • The U.S. Government would pay the fine and the family.
  • The driver and his family would be sent back to the States.
I can't swear to the accuracy of this story, but that's how I remember it. If anyone has had experience with this sort of thing, please post it or drop me a note.

1 comment:

Richard Harris said...

Reading your comments from last year.
I was involved in possibly the worst traffic accident in Taipei. Triggered multiple Flash messages to Washington DC with potential for International Incident. (Serious Stuff!) I hesitate to respond in detail out of respect to the fathers of the deceased. It is a great story and demonstrates the risk of living (driving) in a foreign country. I'm the only American to be released to the Chinese government for jurisdiction then pulled back. Thanks to many people, including US Military, JAG, Chinese Goverment, key memebers of the Chinese Military, and of course the forgivness of the families.