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.
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!
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
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?
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
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?
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!
© 2016 Tatiana Golubeva. All rights reserved.