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Why Russians Are Crazy Drivers?

The entire world looks at YouTube videos of how people drive in Russia and questions the sanity of people here. Why are Russian drivers that crazy? Do not they care for their life? What is going on? Let’s explore.

What Is “Being a Good Driver”?

When I just started to drive a car, the answer to that question was obvious to me. Great drivers drive really fast! At that time I was not one of them, I was moving slowly in the right lane, totally scared of the moving objects around me and the moving object I am in. But I wanted to become a fast and fearless driver. My silly 20-year-old self thought that cutting the lanes, speeding etc. is a really cool adult behavior.

I was fortunate to have three conversations with a really wise adults at that time. One was with a Canadian lawyer, who told me, that good driver is not somebody, who can drive fast, but the one, who can anticipate the situation on the road, predict how other cars will be moving and drive safe. The other conversation was with a British friend. That one was particularly funny. I asked him: “What would they do to a driver, who speeds up in the oncoming traffic lane?” That was a typical behavior of drivers in Moscow at that time – to avoid a traffic jam, cars would go into the oncoming lane and really speed up. I was interested to learn how big is the fine for that in the UK. His answer was: “That guy will be probably brought to a mental hospital”. The third conversation was with my Russian friend – he said that adjusting the gears in a smooth way is a key to a great experience of my passengers. These conversations were timely and shaped my attitude towards driving. I understood that good driving is the safe and smooth driving, the one which is pleasant for the people, who are in the car with you. I am perfecting that style of driving ever since and am happy to report that my passengers usually like to be with me in a car!

But Why All Other Drivers Seem To Be Insane?

Several reasons:

  • Bought drivers licenses – you would be scared to know that a lot of drivers out there would’ve never passed the test if they did not pay a bribe. I am not sure if that practice still stands now, but some time ago it was a typical thing to bribe a police officer to get your license
  • Fatalist’s approach to safety – it is what it is, if it is meant to be, it will happen. We are not the masters of our fortune. Usually those people will tell you that “you never know what is going to happen to you 10 min from now. A brick could fall at your head from a roof of a building”
  • Black cat brings bad luck

    If a black cat crossed your way – consider the day ruined

    Consequences of being a fatalist in Russia – you stop caring about safety at all. If you believe that fate is in God’s hands – why buckle up, why being careful, why follow the rules? That pattern of thought is the one that spurs crazy driving behavior most

  • Competitiveness – “Oh, that guy wants to show off? He thinks he is the only one on the road? He thinks I cannot beat him? Challenge accepted!”
  • Offender will be eaten

    Offender will be eaten (a funny internet men on the subject)

    Bribes that can get you out of any situation – That is diminishing now with the video cameras on the roads (in Moscow). But before one knew that any behavior on the road is acceptable if you can afford it. Literally. If you have enough money – you can drive drunk, pass red lights and even bail yourself out a really bad car accident. It used to be pretty simple – you are speeding, you are stopped by a police officer. You start a conversation and ask, whether you can pay a fine on the spot. And some money slipped in the driving license usually did the trick. Now it is more difficult or impossible, if a camera caught your movement. And some bribes (drunk driving in particular) are still possible, but is it worth paying $10K on a spot for those 2 glasses of beer?

Are There Any Objective Obstacles to Safe Driving In Russia?

  • Traffic to music festival Nashestvie

    Typical traffic jams

    Roads: Yes, there are. Roads in Moscow are great, but if you go 100 km outside of Moscow – roads are pretty bad and in many cases – really narrow. That is a real obstacle to the safe driving even if you are a good driver. If you plan to travel far in Russia – taking a train or a plane is a safer option

  • Road rules and density of traffic: A lot of road rules are strange and traffic density in Moscow is crazy. It is objectively difficult to drive here even if you have best intentions. Traffic jams are horrible and we have our ways to deal with them.

Do Russians Believe in Insurance, Safety Belts and Other Safety Measures?

  • I wrote a separate post about the former. Russians do not believe in insurance. But they(we) started to buy car insurance since the probability of using it is very high.
  • Russians do not believe in safety belts. I recently listened to a radio program about Volvo. They are close to inventing a car, that will be 100% safe (no deaths even in big road accidents). That is big, really big. And that system will never work in Russia. Because Russian drivers feel that seat belts are a) uncomfortable and b) there is an urban legend that tells about that case when a person’s life was saved only because he or she was not buckled up and in the event of an accident was thrown through a window and just had a couple of scratches
  • icons in the car

    icons in the car

    Other safety measures? Yes. A Lot of Russian drivers will have tiny icons, glued to the car panel. Those icons really do protect one from a bad luck. And if the driver is not Christian, that function could be delegated to a string of beads. Or even to an amulet/charm. That makes perfect sense if you think about it – if your fate is in god’s hands, what could protect you more than a piece of god?

  • Russians do believe in the power of dash cams! They often help to prove the case. Even if it the case is a meteor, falling from the sky!

Is There Anything Good You Can Report On The Subject?

  • In fact yes, there is. I am speaking only about Moscow, but Moscow drivers have started to obey many of the rules (fines are too heavy)
  • And, surprisingly, in the last year or two people started to be more nice to each other on the roads. What I like especially is the following habit: if you let another car to change lanes in front of you – that car will most certainly blink emergence lights to you two or three times. That means Thank You. And that usually makes me smile and be happy.
  • Also, the paid parking in the center made center of Moscow a more bearable place for driving. The direction is correct. We just need more cameras and more expensive parking and things will improve.

Aren’t Things Bad In Other Countries Too? Why Do You Always So Critical Of Russia?

  • There are a lot of really serious problems in other countries too. Some countries even have earthquakes . But most well-developed countries do not have crazy drivers, because they have good roads and rules and policemen that are not corrupted.
  • Why is that? Because policemen in the US and Europe make a good salary and would not want to risk that salary and the benefits. But I think Russia is moving to that direction too. I am usually very critical, but even I think that things are improving, at least in Moscow.

Finally, let me tell you a funny story, which may be contrary to the text above. One day, appr 7 years ago, I was driving from Vail to Denver to pick up a friend from the airport. I was late to meet him and I was speeding up on the second half of the road (where it is really straight). No surprised I was pulled over by a police car. Police officer, who asked me for my driver’s license (I own an US driving license) was looking furious. I was trying to remember, what they do in the US for cars that really speed up (in their own lane)). But when he saw me he said something that I still remember and am grateful for. He said: “I thought I have seen a black Kia Rio, that was really speeding up here. But now I clearly see it was the other car. Have you seen that car?”. I mumbled: “No, officer. I was paying attention to the road”. And he gave me my license back and asked to be really careful. There are lot’s of crazy drivers out there. I learned a lot from that. I will never speed up carelessly on Denver (or US roads). My American friends told me that I was incredibly lucky and would’ve went to jail for my speed. That officer gave me a chance to avoid a huge problem and made me think I can drive better. Thank you, officer! Hope you read my blog now! 

Leave a Reply

  • Loose Cannon - 7 years ago

    With youtube and dash cams, we see only the worst of the worst. It’s probably deceptive to depend on those videosI read where we have close to the same rate of fatal accidents here as they have in Russia, based on population.

  • Brooke Lorren (@Brookelorren) - 6 years ago

    I lived in Italy for three years. When you arrived there, everybody would tell you how crazy the drivers were. But living there, I discovered that there was a method to their madness.

    In America, most of us try to practice defensive driving. That is, when we drive, we get out of the way of others proactively. In Italy, although I don’t think that they themselves describe it as such, they practice what I would call “offensive driving”. They just drive and expect everybody else to get out of the way. It works for them though.

    Also, driving in Naples was different than driving farther North, even as far north as Rome. In Naples, you didn’t really have to stop at stop lights and signs. You could just slow down, look both ways, and keep on driving if the cross-traffic was clear. In Rome, you would get a ticket for that.

    It’s very interesting how history has affected the way that Russians think… and how things seem to be changing now.

  • Marsha - 5 years ago

    I had posted, on another of your articles, about the wild driving in Russia. This article answers some of the questions I had. I am glad to see that driving is becoming a more civil practice in Russia…however, I still think I would be scared to drive there. Insurance sounds like a good idea!

  • Thomas - 5 years ago

    This is very good information on how traffic in Russia works. I’ve heard about corrupt police and bribes before, even about buying your license and it’s crazy.
    I really hope that this will change within reasonable time for sake of the many victims of bad crashes in Russia.

    Thanks for your words on this, always good to hear from the other side about “crazy Russian drivers”.

    Have a good day, regards from Thomas, Sweden.

  • Anonymous - 5 years ago

    You see alot of videos where in Russia the drivers look like they are driving on purpose into other car , trucks. Why do they do that. Suisde or what¿?

    • Anonymous - 4 years ago

      Two words – insurance fraud.

  • Anonymous - 4 years ago

    Its the steriods. They make you aggressive

  • Lisa - 4 years ago

    I believe that the legal use of Steriods plays a huge part in these accident! They make you aggressive, and you dont give a shit what happens. Dont 4 get that steriods cause cancer, impotency and erectile dysfunction. Love u Russia!

  • RichB - 4 years ago

    It’s the pedestrians who are truly crazy. They run into the road without even looking, and without even a car around them for protection. Now that is fatalistic.

    • Tanya Golubeva - 4 years ago

      True true! Great observation!

  • bryan chance - 4 years ago

    Good information. I suspected some of the same reasons as you have posted. Driving too fast isn’t because they’re late for something, it’s because they “think” they are a good driver. I’m supprised as a mostly Christian nation many people are susperstitious.
    Regardless of traffic rules and how high fines are, wouldn’t you care about your own safety and safety of others? It’s just common sense that you don’t go 130KPH on a wet two-way road and trying to pass.
    How much productivity is lost due to “advoidable crashes” and the injuries/deaths. If you think about these points, a sane person would change this driving habit. Being a pedestrian is a hazard too. You never know when a speeding car runs you over. And pedestrians themselves; I see too many pedestrians crossing the street without even turning their head to look.
    I saw several videos where the driver of one car said “I don’t have to miss him”. I assume it means he could have just hit the other car becacuse he has the righ to way. This is insane thinking. The first thing after a crash is “Who is at fault?”

    I mean even Russian military tanks are crashing into each other.

    I’m glad people are changing driving habits. I hope to visit Russia some day and not have my whole family killed by some insane driver

  • bryan chance - 4 years ago

    They need to do a massive public safety campaign. Let’s say anyone who is accident free for 12 months get’s a reduction in their insurance and special “tag” to let drivers others know they are “a good driver”. OR some other incidentive… President Putin..please do this.. :p

  • Anonymous - 4 years ago

    But, if Russians became safe drivers, what would YouTube do for content?

  • pamala2132 - 4 years ago

    I thank you for the insight you have given me regarding Russian drivers. It explains a lot.

  • Butch Rudesill - 4 years ago

    Why do autos flip so easily in Russia, even at lower speeds? Are they lighter?

  • Patricia - 4 years ago

    There’s still cat videos.

  • Scott Paulson - 4 years ago

    It has a lot to do with the lack of consequences. Much like Detroit, the police have much better things to do than give out traffic tickets. They are also short staffed dealing with all the criminals. So you can run a red light and it is unlikely you will get a ticket. However, you have to understand that the other drive might do the same thing for the same reason so I always drive defensively. Of course, I’m a white male so if I get pulled over I’d just tell the officer I didn’t want to sit too long in one place because some criminal would come across me and either carjack me or steal my wheels. He’d probably chuckle and then give me an escort of of the sh*tty city.

  • Samantha Deron - 3 years ago

    I disagree on some of the things you said about drivers in Russia (your country)… I think, the truth is, people there have high disregard on traffic rules & regulations, and that they don’t mind driving despite the fact that they’re not ready yet (for the amateurs). Those Youtube videos showing lawlessness in Russian highways are the best proof of that. People around the world make similar mistakes, but not as much as you (Russians) guys do– on a regular basis. This is not a racist comment, by the way. I love travelling and Russia is also one of my dream destinations. But until this problem gets resolved, I think I wouldn’t be travelling there soon. :D

  • pestilento - 3 years ago

    Heavy Fine + cameras really works!
    Greetings from Brazil.

  • Codger - 3 years ago

    After watching a few of those horror videos, I came away with impression that there are many Russians who drive like a fourteen year-old in a stolen car.

  • Archer Canobra - 3 years ago

    A good driver (in the USA) is one that goes to driving school to get a Commercial Drivers License class A.

  • Englishman in Russia - 2 years ago

    Lets not forget potholes. Russians do not take care of their cars, if something is hanging off, a Russian car owner will just rip it off. Regardless of its importance and regardless of how much they paid for the car. Perhaps in their minds they think, “Hey I can save on weight reduction and go faster when changing lanes?!?!?!”. Back to the first statement, they do not care about their cars, but when it comes to potholes, they will do anything and everything to avoid them on the road which includes swerving onto oncoming traffic or pushing you out of your lane so that they don’t go into the pothole. Regardless of pothole size. Oh and if you are in a car with another driver in the passenger seat, be prepare to be blasted if you accidentally hit a pothole! Whats more important right? Your safety or a pothole? Russians…