DRIVING IN RUSSIA

For several weeks I’ve been watching videos on a YouTube channel called “Car Crash Compilation“. For my astute readers out there, this channel features videos showing car crashes and accidents. The majority of the accidents documented are from Russia. In that country, dashcams have become ubiquitous as people need the footage to protect themselves from insurance scams. As such, hundreds of incidents on the road have been caught on tape.

After watching almost two dozen of these videos, I’m utterly shocked at how different driving is in Russia. The drivers in Russia are terrible. I know everyone complains about drivers in their own city but I think one needs to look at the state of what passes for normal driving conditions in Russia before passing judgement. The above video is just one of the many videos available but what is shown there is typical of what you might see in Russia. I’ve noticed a few things that definitely distinguish North American driving culture from that in Russia.

A total disregard traffic laws

I’m not sure how drivers are licensed and/or tested in Russia but it appears that many drivers there either don’t know or don’t care about traffic laws or regulations. In many of the videos, I see people running red lights at full speed, as if they didn’t care or didn’t see what the colour of the traffic light was. This leads to some of the more spectacular accidents. I’ve also noticed Russian drivers making their own lanes to pass other cars, using the shoulder or going two-wide in a single lane. I’ve also seen some drivers making their own dedicated turning lane by positioning themselves ahead of someone in an actual dedicated turning lane. In general, if there is a moving violation to be made, I’ve probably seen a Russian driver do it.

Unsafe and dangerous left-hand turns

This point might be fall under the one above but it merits its own discussion. The majority of the accidents you see in these videos occur from people making unsafe and dangerous left-hand turns. Such a turn is probably one of the most risky moves a driver can make. It requires good judgement and a safe driving sense, none of which appears to be in good supply amongst Russian drivers. I’ve seen Russian drivers make a left without even checking to see if all lanes are clear. The classic example is when both inside lanes going in opposite directions have two cars waiting to turn left. Each car is blocking the others view of the far lane. In such a case, the drivers both have to ensure the rest of the lanes are clear of traffic before proceeding. In many cases, Russian drivers just seem to go for it, hoping luck is on their side. Another egregious error they love making is turning left from a lane that isn’t the lane closest to the center. I have no idea why they would do this. Imagine if you felt it was safe turning left from the curb lane. For you and I, that might seem like a wholly dangerous and irresponsible maneuver but for Russian drivers, it’s a very common thing. It’d be one of thing if perhaps they shoulder checked to see if the other lane was clear of traffic before cutting through multiple lanes of traffic but they don’t. The results are some massive crashes where a car going straight in the other lane t-bones the idiot turner.

Following way too close

This is such an easy thing to not do, yet very few Russian drivers seem to understand this. I’m not sure what they teach them over there but I was taught to maintain a two-second gap between your car and the vehicle in front of you no matter what speed you are going. This is to allow you to have enough time to stop should the vehicle in front of you need to make an emergency braking maneuver. I would say in Russia, drivers just tailgate each other in any situation and at any speed. This is why the videos are full of accidents where people rear-ended. I would understand maybe if someone had to stop from 100 km/h to 0 in two seconds that might cause some difficulty for the car behind but the videos are chock-full of examples where people are decelerating normally and getting smacked from behind. It almost seems like any time you apply your brakes in Russia, there’s a 50/50 chance someone is gonna rear end you. I don’t understand why Russian drivers don’t leave more room between their cars.

A complete lack of driving sense

In many of these accidents, I believe most of them could have been avoided. You can almost see the accident formulate before it happens. I think this comes about if you have experience driving and/or you were taught defensive driving techniques. In North America, you are taught to know where all the dangers to your car might come from in any driving situation. If you know where danger is, then you can anticipate what might go wrong at any given time. For example, if you’re approaching an intersection in the curb lane and you have a green light. In this case, I know to look for drivers to my right who might be trying to make a right-hand turn on a red (which is allowed in my province). I can’t rely on that driver to have seen me and to make a complete stop. So I’ll look at that car to see if it appears to be stopping or perhaps even going forward. I’ll be ready to brake if I need to. If for whatever reason that driver pulls in front of me, it won’t be a complete surprise and I’ll be ready for it.

The other classic example is if you’re again in the curb lane and you’re entering an intersection where the center lane going in the same direction has someone waiting to turn left. There’s also another left-hand turner waiting in the opposite direction. I could just sail into the intersection without a care in the world, hoping that the guy turning left opposite of me will know I’m there and his/her vision won’t be blocked by the other car. Doing so would be just stupid but that’s in fact what many Russian drivers do. In this situation, I often slow down as I approach the intersection and have my foot on the brake, just in case the guy decides to do something dumb and turn in front of me.

Many of these accidents could have been avoided if the drivers just were more aware and vigilant about where the danger was coming from. Call it situational awareness or driving sense but many Russian drivers seem to lack this completely as these videos show.

In summary, I would be very afraid to drive, be in vehicle, or even be a pedestrian in Russia. I wonder if Russian people know how bad their drivers are or do they think this type of driving is normal?

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