Rules of the Road
There was a recent fender bender in Bedrock; the black BMW 750 of a General from the FSB (Federal Security Services) collided with the black Mercedes 500 of a General of the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs). The car at fault in the accident was found to be the Lada driven by the traffic police officer who showed up to investigate, thus illustrating the Golden Rule of the road in Bedrock: he who has the gold makes the rules.
This month, we decided to give newcomers a rundown of the road rules from obtaining a driver’s license to navigating the streets. The first decision one must make is whether to drive at all. Weekdays the metro is faster to almost any part of the city and gypsy cabs are still not expensive. If you have the luxury of a car and driver, you don’t have to worry about finding a parking space, and in the unfortunate case of an accident, the driver will be the one to deal with the hours and days of hassle to follow.
A foreign driver’s license is valid in Russia for six months, so if you travel out of the country more often don’t bother to get a Russian license. Just get a notarized translation. A traffic officer will ask you for both the translation and the original license. Better yet, get several international licenses ($10 at AAA in the US). That way if a traffic policeman wants to write you up and take your license (which they do), you don’t give away the original.
The most important thing is to remain patient on the road and do not let other drivers rattle or push you. Just take it easy, hands firmly on the wheel and eyes on the road, with a regular glance in the rear mirror to catch any surprises that may be headed your way.
Should you need to get a Russian license, it would be best to go to a driver’s training school for a lesson or two, and let the instructor take care of the niceties. This should cost about 6,000 rubles, no questions asked.
Once on the road, it’s off to the races – literally, because many drivers treat the roads like a NASCAR track, with every stoplight the starting line. You need to remain totally aware and undistracted – if there is any place where mobile phone use while driving should be prohibited, it is Moscow. At any moment, from any quarter, a flaming comet could flash by leaving not a spare centimeter between you and his car. Check twice before entering an intersection when the light changes as some drivers believe the first five seconds of red for them is their last chance to cross.
There are a few most important road rules:
- Do not cross the double white line in the center of the road under any circumstances; this can cost your license or certainly a hefty fine. If you need to make a left or U-turn, keep going until you find a broken white line on your side of the road.
- At main intersections, look at the large white arrows above to see which way turns are allowed. If there is not a right or left arrow don’t assume you can make the turn. There are no right turns on a red light unless there is a green arrow.
- Don’t drink and drive. The allowable limit in Russia is zero. The on-the-spot payment to avoid losing your license and a medical test ranges from $300 to $1,200. If you plan to party, plan in advance where you will stash your car until the next day.
- Moscow has acquired 100 more tow trucks and you might as well count on losing your car if you park in front of a bus stop or other high traffic area where parking is prohibited.
- Be polite to police in all circumstances. Do not think that arguing with them or flashing a foreign passport will get you anywhere. Admit the mistake, say you are sorry and if you are up to it, ask if you can settle this matter “po chelovechisky” – in a human way. You know what we mean, but do this very discreetly.