Driving in Russia

Rules, Advisories .....

..... and suggestions

I pay far too much for my Sky TV subscription, given that most nights there's absolutely nothing worth watching. Bearded fat men fixing cars, sharks by the score, endless investigation of crime scenes, and largely unfunny and really rather ridiculous situation "comedies" such as the inexplicably popular "Only Fools Buy Horses" just don't hit the mark. Thus :-

Yep, when all else fails - as it does most nights - YouTube seems to find its way onto my smart TV. Once I've viewed various opinions about the latest version of Lightroom, started to learn Golang or ADA programming, and such serious stuff, I'll usually entertain myself by watching Russian dashcam videos. These feature a driver's eye view, more or less, of the road ahead. One conclusion above all others: Russian drivers are absolute crap and, in the opinion of one particular Russian driver, are probably the worst in the world. Usually if making a sweeping statement such as Russian drivers are crap, one would add something like "but of course there are many good drivers". Not in this case. I really believe that, based upon what I've seen and heard, ALL Russian drivers are crappy arrogant idiots. It seems that there are no exceptions apart from that one elderly man I saw driving a Lada who did actually stop at a red traffic light. Then some total dick in a Peugeot who had no intention of stopping rammed him up the arse. Hey ho.

Based upon what I've seen, I've derived a list of rules, advisories and suggestions for driving in Russia. Here they are:

   Generally speaking, the word "rule" is a largely unknown concept on the road in Russia. Most Russian drivers will construct their own rules on the spot. This is the first thing we need to understand.

   At many road junctions drivers may see poles with boxes containing coloured lights in them. Sometimes these boxes are suspended on cables above the road.

The coloured lights cycle very attractively between various combinations of red, yellow and green. New drivers will often question their significance. In fact, as far as driving is concerned, these attractive light displays have no significance. They are designed simply to joyously remind everybody that either Christmas, Easter, a national holiday or the summer vacations are imminent. They should otherwise be ignored.

   On minor two-lane highways the temptation will always be to overtake slower vehicles. This is perfectly in order; it is completely the responsibility of the drivers of oncoming vehicles to ensure that the overtaking vehicle has a clear and safe path.

   Drivers should always ensure that there is at least one large crack in their windscreen, preferably directly in the driver's line of sight.

It is a well known fact that an unimpeded and clear view of the road ahead is detrimental to safe navigation.

   It is an offence, punishable by up to 6 years imprisonment, for car tyres to feature more than one millimetre of tread depth.

Greater depths of tread merely result in greater amounts of spray during rainy conditions, causing discomfort to the driver following.

   On city roads, drivers wishing to turn left at a junction should always do so from the right-hand lane, and similarly, should turn right from the left-hand lane. There is no requirement or suggestion that turning drivers check for a clear road before turning as it is entirely the responsibility of the drivers of oncoming or overtaking vehicles to ensure that their lane is clear. This rule applies equally to those carrying out U-turns or leaving parking spots.

   Drivers may on occasion spot circular road signs, featuring a red border surrounding a number printed in black on a white background. Common values of such numbers are, for example, 60 and 100.

These signs indicate the minimum speeds. Drivers found driving below these speeds are liable to a fine of not less than 1000 roubles.

   In icy, snowy, foggy or rainy situations drivers should drive at AT LEAST 30 kph over the posted minimum speeds. The use of windscreen wipers in such situations is strongly discouraged. They're probably worn out anyway.

   It is an offence to drive without a driving licence. Licences may be purchased over the counter at most tobacconists upon proof that the applicant is a) over 13 years of age and b) can read the word CTOП, as illustrated in the following rule. They may be in the tobacconist, but we don't want them to start smoking do we - see next rule.

   At many road junctions a sign bearing the word CTOП will be seen.

This is the Russian word for STOP. The sign is an advisory that drivers should attempt to stop smoking - there are already enough health risks just being on the road without adding nicotine addiction to them.

   Truck drivers are NOT expected to stop after being involved in a collision. This point acknowledges the probability that the truck's brakes are probably shot to buggery and barely work.

   Truck drivers are NOT expected to ensure that their loads are securely tied down. This would only waste time at the depot.

   Pedestrian crossings are designed to make life on Russian roads as hazardous for pedestrians as it is for drivers. Russian drivers make a point of trying to knock someone over at crossings, and will always take careful aim at an elderly babushka, particularly if she has a dog with her.

   Truck drivers should ensure that their tyres are worn out and bald, such that they may explode very amusingly at any moment, causing the truck to shimmy all over the road, ideally taking out at least one BMW.

   Russian bridge repair teams are often underemployed and find themselves with little to do.

In order to provide the teams with something to do, it is suggested that drivers of tipper trucks do not lower their load beds after delivering their loads.

   Car insurance is entirely optional.

   If, while driving, an accident appears to be inevitable, drivers are strongly encouraged to try to take out a BMW and give other road users a good opportunity to point and laugh, always to be encouraged in a safe driver. Good alternatives are lamp posts, power line poles and bus shelters.

   Trams, common in most Russian cities, are mostly confined to their own highways, running between the two traffic lanes.

Drivers wishing to turn into a side road, necessitating crossing the tram lines, may do so without regard to oncoming trams, as it is a well-known fact that trams have excellent brakes, enabling them to come to a dead stop usually within 250 metres, and their drivers are expected to give way to cars at all times.

   Though in Russia the normal understanding is that you drive on the right-hand side of the road, this is merely a suggestion and not a hard and fast rule. Many drivers will move to the left-hand side in order to conveniently avoid a traffic jam. Oncoming drivers on that side of the road are required to get out of the way as quickly as possible. That is, unless the oncoming driver is in a BMW, in which case every attempt to crash into it should be made, even though this risks a fine for interfering with a road-owner.

   A nice chap called David M sent me this one: if, on the motorway, you move to your right into the exit lane, and then suddenly realise that this isn't the junction you actually want (it's the next one, silly!), you should, as quickly as possible, move left back into the main traffic lanes. Other drivers are expected to know that you made a mistake and should get out of your way.

David added that he felt that Audis and their drivers should be placed into the same category as BMWs and their drivers, a feeling with which I can't disagree, my passenger and I having been almost collected by an arrogant and moronic Audi-driving turd who shot out in front of us the other day.

   Thank you to a lady called Joanne, who has actually driven in Moscow and survived the experience, and told me that a common internationally understood road sign, a red circle with a horizontal wide white bar across it, means something entirely different in Russia.

Everywhere else in the world this sign means 'do not enter, one way road'. However, in Russia the meaning is clear: 'Caution, cars may be parked along this quite narrow road, please proceed slowly unless you're in an awful hurry'.

There are many other rules and advisories concerning car driving in Russia. You are encouraged to look at Russian dashcam videos on YouTube in order to have a bloody good laugh and to gain a greater understanding of how the business of driving in Russia looks. If you know of any other rules or advisories which I've overlooked, please send them to me at alansworld {at} [gmail.com] and I'll add them to the rule book.