Rules of the Road

MAF missionary family discusses scooter safetyImagine sending your baby boy off on a motorcycle every morning into the craziness that is Sentani Traffic.

Never mind that this “baby” is a 17-year-old six-foot-tall young man. He’s still your baby, and that traffic is still crazy.

After driving in Indonesia for almost 14 years, I have a renewed sense of the wildness of the driving now that I have a child out on the roads. I am keenly aware that we live in a country that lacks the safety culture we have in the U.S.

Recently in a town not far from us, a dump truck carrying 50 people lost control and careened into a ravine, killing nine young teenagers aboard. My friend who was telling me about this horrific accident said, “Those dump trucks were only meant to carry about 20 people.” I wanted to say to her, “Dump trucks aren’t meant to carry ANY people!” Such is the mindset here, where dump trucks mean easy transport and little thought is given to safety practices.

With that in mind, my husband and I have tried to convey to our son the importance of defensive driving and learning the unofficial rules of the road, which are slightly different from U.S. rules. Here are a few:

If the vehicle is bigger than you, it has the right of way.

If the driver does not make eye contact, he thinks he has right of way.

Right of way means, “It’s my right to drive my way.”

Flashing your lights means, “Here I come, get out of my way.”

Flashing your lights can also mean, “You go ahead while I hold traffic for you.”

The horn is your most essential vehicle feature; it is used to say “I’m here” or “Get out of the way” or “I see you.”

And most importantly: drive fast and take chances! Just kidding—our most important rule is: slow down!!!


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  • audrey neild says:

    I love the MAF Blog. It helps me to feel more connected to my own kids in Sentani, village Danokit Papua.Thank you so much to all of you for sharing your hearts with me.
    Audrey Neild

  • Shawn Rose says:

    How old was your boy before you let him run down the roads alone? We’re looking to head that way soon and our boys are only 11 and 10 right now.

    I know it has to be crazy over there, but man, what and experience it’ll be.

    • Hi Natalie; Maybe we will meet in Sentani. I have friends you may know who is there now and just returned from the jungles thanks to MAF flight services. Roger & Suzanne Doriot. By the time you see this, they will likely be gone, they leave the area on Thursday. I look forward to having your “baby” give me driving lessons 🙂

  • Robert says:

    I am from Sentani.
    I my self also feel sorry for our society here in Sentani-Papua.
    Most people don’t really care about the importance concepts of safety drive or work 🙁

    Anyway apart of that, i really thank you for what you’ve been done or doing for our society here in Papua 🙂

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