Monday, December 14, 2009

road switch

Although I was not here for the road switch I asked my tama (Tupai) about it. The road switch happened in the beginning of September. Apparently the night before there were crews on the road painting arrows throughout the roads so everyone knew which side of the road to be on. In Apia they also painted in some areas “Look Right” to remind pedestrians which way to look. They also created a lot of speed bumps to encourage slower traffic as some people may still be confused about which side of the road to be on.
The next morning people went on the road at 6 am. They then had areas for them to stop until given the word. They announced something on the radio to switch to the other side of the road and all of a sudden everyone did. From what I was told there was no confusion at all as it was easy for all of them.
There has only been one major accident since the switch, and it wasn’t really from the road switch. It happened right by the town of Manunu from one of the buses. The bus, like most buses in Samoa, was going extremely too fast for its own good and missed a turn and flipped over. Somehow the bus was burned and many people were hurt/killed. Because of this accident we were reminded that it is appropriate to tell bus drivers “Alu lemu” or go slow.
Another change because of the road switch is the night clubs. Nightclubs used to be open until midnight, however Samoa was worried about the drunk drivers on the road if the clubs were open so late, especially with the road switch, so they decided to close them at 10 PM instead. I keep hearing rumors that they are supposed to switch it back soon, but I am not sure when. (Not that it matters as I do not live near the city.)
The reason for the road switch was because of costs. It is very expensive for cars to be shipped from America, American Samoa, or other places that drive on the same side of the road as us. Because New Zealand and Australia drive opposite us, and it is closer, they decided to switch to be like them (and enjoy the cheaper shipping of cars).
It is really funny because although no new cars can be brought in that have the driver on left side, there are still plenty of them around. So you will see cars with the driver on both side of the car. It is really comical and I am amazed how few problems have emerged from such a big switch.

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