2017-03-05 Vests

So when buying a new car here, you get some stuff included in your purchase. Like a spare wheel, a warning triangle, an instruction book, you know, the things you’d think. But I did lift an eyebrow when seeing that also a yellow reflex vest was included in the start up kit.

What could possibly be the reason for a yellow reflex vest to be equally pressing in your new car as those other basic urgency things?

Or at least that’s what I wondered, till having been driving for a while now in Portuguese traffic.

Now, Portugal is a quite safe country, people with international careers even state safety as one of the main reasons for moving back here when having kids. There isn’t much crime, and in addition, the Portuguese calmness of soul brings a kind of a relaxed, slow pace that adds to the safe, tranquil feeling of the place. Even in tourist guide books and sites the relative safety is commented on specifically. Except when it comes to traffic. Portugal is over indexed on traffic accidents. Not necessarily on the ones of the serious type, but on the everyday, small, bumps and car bruises accident types.

And they’re not joking. On a normal weekday morning drive to school or work, you will, every time, see a couple of accidents. Again, not always very serious, but as in cars standing still and respective drivers out of their cars. And they do this exactly on the very spot the bump-in accident actually happened, which often is in a street crossing, in a queue or when getting into a round-about. Meaning that the cars behind cannot get past, that queues build up and that new accidents happen in those queues, and, well… It’s like a vicious circle of breaking and accelerating.

And when something happens, the Portuguese keep their calm. They simply get out of their cars, light a cigarette and take a slow inspection tour around the bumped cars, taking some photographs. With their yellow vests on if they are law abiding, or at least fine averse citizens. No hurry, no stress, as if not seeing the queues building up behind. Not willing to move the cars even an inch to the side so that traffic can continue. As if the damage will magically alter shape and form if the cars are moved. As if the police they are waiting for really could not imagine where the cars were in the actual moment of impact. As if the pictures for the insurance company will look different a few minutes later or a few metres away.

As for the queues behind though, they are most often equally relaxed and unstressed, minding their own business, sitting about in their cars while waiting for the road ahead to clear so they can continue driving, fidgeting with their phones, or radios, car interior, or whatever. In any case not very attentive to what’s happening in the traffic situation, so the likelihood of accidentally pressing the accelerator or brake too hard is imminent, and a new queue accident to follow the previous therefore quite likely.

So, the yellow reflex vests being part of your standard Portuguese new car start-up kit actually does make sense. Traffic accidents are so common it is even regulated by law to keep the yellow reflex vest as a part of your basic emergency car kit. And the car dealers try to help you and put it into your new car straight from the beginning.  There you go, there really is a reason for Everything.



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