Driving in Russia – a real life Grand Theft Auto?


Driving in Russia – a real life Grand Theft Auto?

You’ve probably seen the videos or read the story’s in the media about Russia’s roads and the often crazy things that Russian drivers get up to it’s so crazy that it even gets compared to the video game Grand Theft Auto!

As Russia makes its immigration policy more open to expats we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at just how dangerous the roads in Russia really are.

Why are the roads so dangerous?

Driving in Russia is a hazardous affair, in 2011 over a staggering 28,000 people were killed and 252,000 injured in over 200,000 traffic accidents across the country. In the period of January to July 2012 14,000 were killed in over 107,000 accidents. The figures are indeed shocking but if you’ve seen any of the Youtube videos you can clearly understand why the figure is so high. In 2009 President Dmitry Medvedev blamed the ‘undisciplined, criminally careless behaviour of our drivers’ as well as the poor condition of the nation’s roads.

It seems the ex-President had a point. Most of the accidents registered in Russia in 2012 were a result of drivers breaking traffic laws, including speeding, ignoring red lights and even driving on the wrong side of the road. Drink driving especially is a big problem in Russia with drivers under the influence claiming the lives of 1,000 people in the first six months of 2012 alone.

The country’s traffic police is considered to be the most corrupt institution in a nation already ranked very highly on the corruption charts. Many drivers complain that going to the traffic police with a legitimate complaint is far from certain to end with a positive result. Poor road maintenance resulted in 3,900 traffic-related deaths in January-July, leaving some 32,000 people injured, a 10.7% increase year-on-year.


What’s with all the dashboard cameras?

Dash-cams are in use by nearly all Russian drivers as a means to protect themselves from scams and legal prosecution. With so many accidents caused by reckless driving insurance companies would not pay a penny unless it had hard evidence that their customer was not in the wrong.

In addition to authorities they deem untrustworthy, Russian drivers must contend with the possibility of being attacked by another driver. Then there are pedestrians who get themselves hit by cars on purpose, for a payoff. A video compilation (below) of failed scams offers a few examples.

Overall, in a country where traffic conditions are horrible, insurance scams and roadside fights are always a possibility, and the police are widely viewed as corrupt, video evidence of one’s innocence can be a very valuable thing.

How do I drive safely in Russia?

As with driving anywhere in the world you cannot control the actions of other drivers around you, but you can take measures to ensure that you yourself drive safely. As stated earlier your vehicle must have a dashboard mounted camera in order to protect you in case any incident should occur. It may not seem that Russians stick to the laws but as an expat you should make sure you have the following things in your car.

•    A warning triangle in case you break down.
•    Headlamp converters.
•    A first aid kit.
•    A fire extinguisher.

Russian winters are renowned for their harshness and freezing temperatures so naturally that is the most dangerous time of the year o drive. To stay within the law you must make sure to have winter tyres fitted and snow chains in your boot.  Also keep an eye on the weather reports and never ever go driving in a snow storm.

Russia may be one of the most dangerous driving destinations on Earth but even they pale in comparison to China. Every year an estimated 220,000 people are killed on Chinese roads. It makes the UK’s roads look pretty darn safe in comparison.

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