Latvian driving: the worst?

On Wednesday after work, I drove home as usual up the Tallinn motorway, as it is known. It was another lovely summer day and I was thinking about all the jobs I had to in the garden. The traffic hadn’t been too bad and I was a couple of hundred metres from my turn off at Stiene when the traffic stopped. It became apparent that there had been an accident as I could see a slightly damaged car transporter. At this point I couldn’t see any other vehicles, but because of the little damage to the transporter I wasn’t unduly concerned. After a delay of about 20 minutes we started to move. On passing a very badly damaged 4 wheel drive car I noticed 4 bodies at the side of the road. Two of the bodies were wrapped and two uncovered. Click here for more details.

It was an image I couldn’t get out of my head for a couple of days and has definitely changed the way I drive. It has also made me think about the quality of driving I experience on Latvian roads. Over the years, I’ve driven in Europe, Africa, India and America, and I have to say that the driving I experience in Latvia ranks as some of the most dangerous I have ever come across. The danger is caused in the main by 3 things; high speed, poor anticipation of what other drivers might do and impatience. Let me give you some examples what I mean, Recently parts of the Tallinn motorway are being resurfaced and the speed limit has been reduced to 70 km/hr. Does anyone take any notice? Of course they don’t and most cars are travelling at about 100km/hr. On Thursday morning I was driving in to Riga on Brivibas , just gone over Vefa bridge, traffic was moving slowly, but just about to accelerate and I was in the inside lane about 4 metres behind the car in front of me. All of a sudden a woman in a Mercedes decided she could fit in the gap and pulled in in front of me causing me to break. Idiot!!!!. Finally whilst we were queuing at the scene of the accident on Wednesday night, a car driver decides overtake all the queue and drove to the front. What was most annoying was that when the traffic started moving he was allowed to go first. Why didn’t the policewoman send him to the back?

I know this blog might upset a few people, but I honestly think that the quality of driving needs to improve.

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24 Responses to Latvian driving: the worst?

  1. monta says:

    Yes driving is not good there because people who have posh cars want to show off 😦 but I still think there is no worse driving than in Bangkok !!! 😀

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  2. Terrible tragedy that! The boy who survived it lost his mother! Awful.. This doesn’t seem to be the case of reckless or drink driving though – mere inattentiveness by the look of it..

    I think the regular (moderate if I can use the word) speeding you’ve observed will drop with the introduction of speed-cameras (second time round – we had a bit of a fiasco with the project for the first time) – they do say it’s going to happen pretty soon.. Will see.. Currently there is hardly any speed control on the roads and you can see the result.. A couple of words to our defense: I remember in the UK – I didn’t drive regularly but hired a car once for a trip from London to Lake district and back – it really noticed that many drove quite a bit over the 70mph speed limit consistently.. Correct me if I’m wrong..

    As for the annoying ones (very often in their flash cars) who’d push in front of you and perform other ‘tricks’ on the road – I know how you feel, they sure can make one’s blood boil.. They are a certain ‘species’ and regrettably still quite a few of them around.. On many occasions this is a case of ‘too much too soon’ in combination (or one out of two) with lack of culture, intelligence and consideration.. Thanks to the recession their numbers have reduced and hope that trend will continue but for now we just have to live with them until they die out naturally or realize that acting like ‘the cock of the walk’ cannot gain respect in a civilised world – quite the opposite.. I try not to let them get me in a mood but rather take the ‘forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ attitude.. If possible to react quickly enough I never let this lot push in front of me though 😉

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  3. mariposarina says:

    After driving one year in Dubai I am considering Latvia as one of the best places to drive. Road covers have to be improved indeed.

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  4. Expat Eye says:

    Totally agree. Driving here in general is absolutely dire. People pay absolutely no attention to what they’re doing, are inconsiderate, impatient and just plain stupid at times. I’m glad I don’t drive but I still manage to almost get killed 4 or 5 times a week – on the pavement.

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    • Ilze says:

      How come noone else gets almost killed 4 or 5 times a week? You do love exaggeration.

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      • Expat Eye says:

        I’m pretty sure people do. They just think it’s ‘normal’.

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      • CrazyCatLady says:

        Erm… I second to what Expat said. Probably because I’ve lived in a civilised country for most of my life, I tend to notice the madness. It’s like my taxi driver from Ghana said – you don’t notice “abnormal” until you witness it.

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    • Zane B. says:

      Driving here is totally not the best, but getting almost killed 5 times a week. Really? I’ve had 2 adrenaline pumping situations in my whole life.

      And yes, Latvians are not the best drivers, but nothing, really nothing can be worse than driving in Russia, especially Moscow. There is even a group of people who fight it, but not with the best results, here is a YT account with videos and those “nice” drivers: https://www.youtube.com/user/StopXAM

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      • Expat Eye says:

        It’s always so easy to point out the Russians as a bad example of something. Why not compare Latvia to countries you actually aspire to be more like? Denmark, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and yes, even the UK and Ireland – http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-236_en.htm

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      • CrazyCatLady says:

        When I was at school and didn’t do that brilliantly, my grandma would read me the riot act. I’d quickly interject stating that I wasn’t the worst in class, there were others y’know! “Why compare yourself to the bottom? Why not aspire to be like the top if the class?” OK, so that’s pretty much what Expat said, but you get the gist- it’s a copout

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  5. Reinis says:

    Wouldn’t say it’s the worst, but it is pretty appalling. We were just going to Positivus festival on the same motorway from Riga, on a two lane road some drivers overtake others when everyone is speeding anyway, going about 130 km/h, and there even was a moment when someone overtook a person on the left shoulder who already was overtaking. Absolutely horrible, I was genuinely scared for my life. I wish that the newer drivers would be more aware of their actions and instead of learning the driving culture from their parents or friends actually think for their own and others’ safety and well-being.

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    • rower says:

      this definately is not “usual”. i’ve heard saying, that Moscow is the only place in world, where you can be hit from behind, while you are taking over, and the one from behind will say “hey, you were soooo slooow”.
      attention – yes. this is a huge problem. as far as i’ve seen – manymany drivers are not trained to pay attention. it usually grows out (more or less by itself) in around 5 years or 50k kilometers driven, you even start not paying attention to fact that you are paying attention. you start seeing by “edge of your eye”, avoiding things seemingly unseen. attention moves somewhere from your head towards spine, and many things happen “automagically”. however – this false automation and feeling of safety is exactly what leads to NO attention towards what’s happening around. sunday drivers who drive every day of the week novadays can be seen 24/7. cars are cheap. fuel – not to expensive. as a result – everyone drives like he’s star of F1 or daccar.

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  6. Pingback: It drives me crazy | Expat Eye on Latvia

  7. CrazyCatLady says:

    Crikey! You should see the horror that is driving in our neck of woods…
    http://bluemeanie.org/?/weblog/comments/oxted-drivers-are-idiots

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  8. Lee says:

    Don’t be too hard on Latvian drivers. You think things are better elsewhere? Let’s consider where I live. I was born and raised in the USA. I moved a few years ago to a certain well-know town. Let’s just say in a big city with lots of casinos and hot dry weather. The one with 40 million visitors a year. Most of the visitors are either idiots looking to win a fortune at the slot machine, or foreigners shopping for bargains. Some of the convention people are OK. But in general the visitors are even worse than the locals. I hate driving here. The drivers here are rude, aggressive, and don’t signal. They don’t signal because everyone knows that if you signal you want to change lanes, the drivers in that lane just want to speed up so you can’t get in. Just to screw you. Because they are scum. They are hateful, selfish, boorish scum. Of course the people here in this unidentified city are scum in general, not just when they are driving. By the way, the school system is horrible, the hospitals are horrible, the police are trigger-happy thugs, and politicians are corrupt and greedy vermin. The whites are angry, the blacks are angry, the Mexicans are angry, and every racial group hates every other group. The Guido Mafia descendants are degenerate filth. The blacks are the worst I have seen anywhere in the USA. It’s as if every subhuman ape from Detroit, Washington DC, or some God-forsaken state of the deep South migrated here in search of banana trees. The Mexicans think they already own the place. Most of the single young women I’ve seen are either strippers, whores, or drug addicts. On the other hand, there is no other hand. There are no redeeming qualities. There is no culture. There is no nature except the desert. Death Valley. Sounds appealing, right? “Hey kids, let’s go to Death Valley this weekend. I hear it will only be 120 degrees in the shade.” There is no beauty. The architecture is like Disneyland on crack cocaine. Tasteless doesn’t even begin to describe it. There is nothing but greed, corruption, prostitution, drug dealing, everyone is angry, and basically I can’t wait to leave. After I do, perhaps God will do the world a favor and perform a Sodom and Gomorrah event on this horrible place. I’m sure Latvia has problems, but they do have culture and beauty. It’s still Nothern Europe. It’s almost exclusively white people. It’s a shame so many Latvians had to emigrate to find work. But this may change. The Latvians spent most of the twentieth century trying to survive. I would say they have done very well while maintaining their culture and without bombing lots of innocent kids like the Zionists are doing. So they are rude sometimes. The rudest person I ever met where I live was a British Army veteran who kept telling me what a horrible country America is. I didn’t say anything but I kept thinking maybe this sort of idiot is the reason my ancestors fought a war against these British thugs so we could have our own government. As a non-Latvian, all I can say is Dievs sveiti Latviju. Have a nice day.

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  9. Alex says:

    The most intriguing thing about Latvian drivers is the use of mobile phones. Most drivers must have three arms, as they hold the mobile to their ear or to text, change gear and steer around corners. I recently was alongside a 30 something woman in a late edition A4, texting whilst at the lights and then continuing to text and drive, well drift between the ruts, for 10km towards Jurmala, only for her to swerve at the last minute to hit the Ventspils turning narrowly avoiding a old volvo charging up the inside.

    Most of the cars that I see hands holding mobile use happening in have Bluetooth and Entertainment centres that can quite happily provide the driver with hands-free, here’s looking at every Porsche Cayenne and Audi A6 on Vanšu.

    The police should stand at the end of the bridge and quite happily fine 100eur for drivers with mobiles and no handsfree kit in the car and 1000eur for those who have no excuse. Would boost the coffers and also sort out what is the biggest danger to other road users, distraction.

    Apart from that, once you understand that never trust the driver in front and never expect any kind of warning, you can survive.

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  10. Lee says:

    Let me apologize for making my previous post on how horrible the unspeakable place I live in is as far as driving is concerned. Yes, it’s that bad, but I made some mistakes. First, I should not have asked God to vaporize the place. That is not for me to judge. I know I should not post after that first beer. (Perhaps a second beer would put me in a better mood, but I don’t drink very much, usually.) Second, no offense in general to the British Army. Actually many of my ancestors fought in the English Army, going back at least to the Crusades. Third, most Brits I have met are very polite and gracious. Finally, and most importantly: my humble apologies to Latvians for mangling the words of the national anthem. I know I made a spelling mistake. I felt like such an idiot after noticing that mistake. Actually I haven’t figured out how to spell Latvian on a post such as this. I mean those letters with marks above them. I need to learn how to do that. To make up for this, one of the tasks I have assigned myself is memorizing the national anthem with perfect spelling. It is, after all, the most beautiful national anthem in the world, in my opinion. By the way, I am learning Latvian. The first time I heard it, I realized it was the “foreign” language I had been looking for. It doesn’t even seem foreign. Maybe because it’s so old in some ways, it resonates with my ancient European soul? I don’t know. Anyway, sorry to write such a long post. I like your blog and all blogs on Latvia, as long as they are essentially pro-Latvia.

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  11. stijn says:

    As a Belgian, I’m rather used of bad driving styles, bad road conditions and the very congested and busy roads. Riga and Latvia sometimes completely surprise me when it comes to road safety.
    Last summer driving from Riga to Gauja there was a part where road constructions were going on. A sign said the maximum speed was 50 (or was it even 30?). Average speed must have been 100. Absolutely no signs, road marks. Just one open field where anyone can drive where they desire. On the long winding roads through the country it always surprises me no more bicyclers or people on foot next to the road get killed when many cars are driving close to the border of the road when faster cars are approaching. Not to mention when trucks are taking over while in the other direction two trucks are doing the same, middle of the night, on snow. Next time I put a dashboard camera in my car.
    That being said. There are many places where it’s much worse on the road. And got to say, nothing beats driving through empty roads in the middle of nowhere in winter. Excellent driving school!

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  12. eva7772 says:

    I live and recently started to drive in London. In my long time driving experience I would say than IDIOT drivers are everywhere. Last summer I made a trip by car from London to Latvia and must say that driving through Lithuania and in Latvia were most relaxing places to drive.
    Comparing drivers in Riga and London – if in Riga you will see 2 idiot drivers in a half an hour of driving than in London you will be affected by 5 of them in just 15 minutes interval!
    Idiot drivers – persons who doesn’t have any driving culture, don’t pay any attention to you and thinks they are Formula 1 drivers. I still didn’t figure out how they get their driving licences.

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    • Lynx says:

      Can’t agree with you Eva- London’s traffic is one of the safest you can experience in Europe, rarely someone makes any crazy moves, traffic is so intensive that it is almost impossible to overtake without accident. It is predictable and if nothing stays in a traffic jam, it moves fairly quick.

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  13. Lynx says:

    First and foremost- problem in our country is that it is “prestigious” to ignore rules & The Highway code, people are proud of forgetting everything just after passing practical driving test. This is a bit of tradition in this country, “rules are for idiots” is a strong point and many follows that. No one really cares about safety, everyone forgets that rules are written by someones blood.

    Another huge problem is youngsters on the roads- unlike in UK, in Latvia you can buy a cheap car, get a cheap 3rd party insurance for pennies and you’re legal to drive. Insurance is so cheap that everyone can afford it, and no restrictions on engine size or what so ever, get the most powerful motor you can and you’re set to break speed records on public road. And what happens- when youngster with his “rules for idiots” attitude in his mind gets on public roads in his 20y old BMW? The last years black statistic shows that many more fatalities are mostly because of some incidents with 4-6 deaths in one accident, in all cases there was young guys in 20y old tanks hitting something at high speed. If they couldn’t get insurance for those cars, there would be a much less risk of them on the road. The youngsters itself are ok, but there must be restrictions on insurance, just like in UK, yes, it’s pricey and normal people suffers because of that, but for whole safety on the roads, no speed tickets will teach them, the only thing can take some action is limited availability of dangerous tools- high performance cars, in some last years fatal accidents drivers had old BMW 740i – the V8 powered tank – tank because these were middle 90s made cars with lack of modern stability systems, they are like tanks – with a small engine golf, they couldn’t reach that speed so quickly and even if they would crash, the result would be a lot better.

    These are my thoughts about what makes driving culture in Latvia so bad.

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  14. Pingback: Baltic Honeymoon

  15. I thought Delhi drivers were the worst, Latvian drivers beat them all to the first place! Shocking with no regard for their own safety or anyone else whatsoever. “Oh yes, I have an old Soviet T-34, I am gonna slam the accelerator pedal to the floor! God damn, there is a foreign driver, how dare he pass me. Let us show him that we are better drivers”. Shocking, disguting, pathetic, unforgivable, and worth a rant for two 20 pages minimum if deemed necessary……. Rant over.

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