Shenzhen travelogue 4: avoiding fiery death

Below is an email I sent home in the middle of the trip.

Oh hey I forgot to tell you, I almost got killed yesterday. We were driving to that vendor site and avoided an accident by inches. There was this tanker truck, I could tell it was empty by the way it was bouncing, and the driver was absolutely flogging it. The highway was three lanes each way, we were in the left lane. This tanker came up in the right lane going about 20mph faster than traffic, and moved into the middle lane to pass someone. But the smaller truck he tried to pass got into the middle lane too, to pass even slower traffic. Mr. Tanker was going too fast to avoid rear-ending the guy, so he laid on the horn, locked up the brakes, and drifted to the left towards us. We were about six inches on either side from being pinned between a concrete barrier and a semi, as the road with three lanes briefly had to accomodate four abreast, three of which were trucks. But in the end, there was no contact.

Our taxi driver was a pussy. He left too much following distance from the car in front of us, and he was constantly getting cut off. And he stayed in the left lane. And he should have seen (as I did well before the incident) that that tanker driver was dangerous and stayed the hell away from him.

Traffic in Chinese cities is anarchy, but it works. There's a system, it just isn't the same system that they teach in driver's ed and put on the signs and laws. Traffic on the freeways, on the other hand, doesn't work. There is too much speed difference between the slowest and fastest vehicles, slow vehicles don't stay to the right, and everybody is constantly changing lanes without looking behind them. There's a custom here that you're only responsible for what's in front of you. That's technically true in the US too, but people usually check their mirrors anyway to be polite and because they know the consequences of getting rear ended. Here they don't look first.