My first introduction to echo location driving was in Sumatra in 1995. Small busses the size of a Dodge Caravan were fitted with compressed air tanks on the roof just behind the windshield. When I first saw this configuration – I wondered what the compressed air was for. After packing approximately 22 passengers and all of their belongings (often included chickens and live fish) into the van we headed off to our destination.
Once we started into the twisty mountain roads I soon discovered the reason for the compressed air tanks – to power the skookum air horns. Our Sumatran driver apparently did not want to reduce his speed below four wheel drift territory. The blasting of the air horn was to warn oncoming traffic that there was a bus drifting sideways across both lanes around blind corners that were punctuated with precipitous drops offs.
If our bus had left the road the result would have looked like mice and shards of glass being run through a food processor ( with some chicken,fish and luggage thrown in for effect).
The echo location system of driving worked – we avoided head on collisions and I am still alive today.
Fast forward 17 years to the hills above Lucca Tuscany in Italy. The driving here is not quite as extreme as Sumatra (I have not driven in Rome yet), however a form of echo location driving is used on the local roads.
The twisty roads that connect the small villages here are often single lane and rife with blind corners, switchbacks and blind spots.
It has been my observation that Italian drivers are not know for poking about and easing their way around corners (or keep the car in a designated lane).
In order to get around these beautiful twisty roads safely one must not be shy about laying on the horn to let other drivers hikers, (and on the weekend) cyclists know that you are coming.
So far so good………..