Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Monday, December 17, 2007

Traffic Court Justice -- Supplemental

Looking back over my last post, it occurs to me that I may have implied that American military people were more or less immune from Taiwan law. That was certainly not my intent. I never once felt that I could expect any better treatment than any of the locals if I managed to break any laws, and I'm sure that those around me felt the same.

I know for a fact that there were Americans incarcerated in Taiwan jails for various crimes. My lawyer friend used to visit them on a regular basis. In fact, I wrote earlier about Americans who were still in confinement during the withdrawal of American forces.

The one possible exception was an army guy I knew who drove his 240Z over a local guy's foot one night while drunkenly navigating out of the China Seas/63 Club parking lot. He told me about it the next morning and said that he wasn't worried because both he and his boss, an army lieutenant colonel, were Masons. I never heard another word about the incident, so apparently something magical happened to make it all go away. I doubt that it had much to do directly with the Taiwan government.


I just remembered something else on this subject: I was once told by a general officer's enlisted aide that part of his job was driving the general's wife wherever she needed to go in Taipei. This was not an ego trip on her part and it had nothing to do with her skill as a driver. It was done solely to eliminate the possibility that she might ever be directly involved in an auto accident or receive a traffic citation. Such an event might result in a delicate diplomatic situation that could be an embarrassing distraction to the command. The decision was made somewhere along the line to just eliminate that possibility.

I mention this only to further illustrate that local traffic laws did apply to all U.S. military personnel and their dependents when I was in Taipei.


Anonymous said...

In 1968 a new agreement had been signed requiring all American military personnel and civilians associated with the military in Taiwan to face traffic court. I was the first military to meet the court from Taipei Air Station.

As I remember, a few of us rode down to the court office. Myself, possibly the Safety NCO and the station's legal officer. When the proceeding opened, the incident was announed in a shortned version. The government official in charge asked me to explain the accident. I was nervious, got up and told my story. I was driving to the Navy Exchange area on Roosevelt Road, returning from work at Taipei Air Station. A couple of blocks before the bridge over the railroad tracks, close to the hospital district, a guy on a motorcycle, not a scooter, from a left street, ran in front of me, I hit my brakes and my left headlight struct his tail area, a long piece of metal used to tie down what ever the motorcycle was transporting, when I struck him it was empty. He went down, I was angry that he had run in front of me since I had the right of way, which was only an idea in the 1960 era. People drove like law did not exist. I jumped out of my Mustang and raised my voice telling the gentlement in English that he had run in front of me, etc. The guy must have been frightened, he jumped up, picked up his cycle and left the area quickly. A few weeks later, I got the notice to appear in traffic court. I have no idea how it came together since the police were not involved. So when I had my turn to explain the circumstances, I got fired up and used the blackboard to draw up a diagram and explain the circumstances of the accident. I pointed fingers at the motorcycle rider and spoke of right of way, not stopping at the stop sign, and what ever else I could bring up. My legal office motioned me to sit down. I had said enough. We left the court and returned to TAS. I never heard word of the accident again.

So much of the first GI to attend Taipei Traffic Court from Taipei Air Station.

Don said...

Great story!

I never knew the details about their legal jurisdiction before, but I'm not surprised.

When I was there in 73-74, at least a couple of my friends drove like maniacs, but I can't say that they really stood out very much from all the other drivers there.