How to Avoid a Traffic Accident in Romania
How to Avoid a Traffic Accident in Romania
When you are driving in Romania, expect anything to come your way. I mean, literally expect the surprising and the mindlessly dangerous. As with any European country, driving behavior will not always resemble American driving habits and rules. Here are the main elements you need to know:
Around the cities
Construction projects have disrupted Bucharest for years. Do not expect every street on the map to be open, especially in the historic center of town.
No matter where you are, be prepared to be harassed on the road if you are a woman driving. At times, men drivers enjoy tailgating and cutting off cars driven by women. If you are being tailgated, do what you would do at home and pull over and let the blowhard pass by you. If you cannot pull over and get out of the way, do not retaliate. As in America, the aggressive driver may be drunk and do even worse. If you are stuck at an intersection with the harasser, roll up your windows or blast the local radio station on your radio.
Some of the danger comes from drivers who think of creative moves while driving. Expect the unexpected. Drivers full of bravura will park their cars halfway onto the sidewalk. Drivers do not see pedestrians in the road.
License plate battles
Romanians have a fierce pride in their county association. That is why someone from Maramures (indicated by the “MM” that precedes the number on their license plate) may honk at or drive too closely to a car from Bucharest (indicated by the “B” that precedes their license plate number). In Cluj, we were menaced by a rusted-out farm truck from Maramures because we had Bucharest plates. Try to see the other person’s license plate for a clue into why they are yelling out their window at you.
Public Works attitudes
There is another problem that completely surprised me—disturbing public service behavior. Perhaps it is a hangover from Soviet times. If the job has to be done, all traffic around the service truck must yield to the public service truck. The department of public works will not always require cautionary signs to warn the public of road work. “Safety First” is not an idea that has caught on yet in Romania. Therefore you may be caught on a remote road experiencing an unannounced road project, and watching a dump truck unload a mountain of crushed rock in front of you. In this case, you must use strict Romanian parlance to halt the activity. If you get behind a truckload of dumped gravel, you will be stuck there for hours.
In the countryside, ask a local about the state of the road before you drive
Be cautious about assuming that secondary roads are even drivable. Romanian roads get washed out and public works are slower to address these and more minor problems. We took a shortcut on a road that looked like it had been bombed. We were told the road had just been repaved. During deeper inquiry, we learned that the repaving took place ten years before. Likewise, be on your guard when following roads along rivers to remote hotels, retreats, and religious sites. Actively question the safety of a road’s shoulder. If it does not look safe, reverse down the road.
You must be prepared to share the road with wandering cattle
In the countryside, tractors and horse drawn carts share the road with you. Driving by a working horse could be upsetting to the horse. We also discovered that farmers will drive their horse right into small cities, increasing danger to car drivers and carts. While driving in the remoter reaches of Transylvania, we came across flocks of sheep in the lanes, and even lone cows meandering dangerously on deceptively modern, well-paved roadway. Be ready to encounter animals, especially wild dogs, everywhere.
Gas station dogs
You will get out at many of the well-cared-for gas stations on the main highways. Wild dogs congregate in the parking lots around these convenience store/service stations. Many of the dogs are typical, attractive Romanian dogs with sweet, worn-out expressions and matted fur, all looking for love. But they are mainly there for food, and occasionally they have become aggressive. Be careful to approach carefully, if it all. It is very sad, but these dogs have been known to attack. Romanians fear wild dogs with good reason. I could not resist these animals, but I am a foolish dog-lover.
Driving around Romania is a rich experience, but it can be a very dangerous activity as well.