Thursday, July 22, 2010

Libya: Driving

I major topic of conversation during our two week stay was the traffic and driving habits of Libya and Libyans. Many family members took an interest in our opinion of driving in Libya or took a moment to explain why it was the way it was. Before we get in to the why though, lets cover the what. Driving in Libya is similar to driving in the United States, in that they use automobiles to accomplish the task, much like we do. The similarities end there though.

Holding a lane is optional, if you are so inclined you can get your Pacman on and gobble up those delicious lines. They are tasty, but why stop there, feel free to use the shoulder to pass you fellow driver. Speed limits are optional as well, there are posted limits, but getting pulled over for exceeding them does not happen. At least not in my experience or the experiences conveyed to me.

Stop lights are rare, but for the most part drivers heeded them, but not always. Plenty of people get impatient and drive through red lights when they can see it is clear. A practice I have dabbled with on my bicycle, but never in a car. The right of way is unclear in most cases and does not exist at roundabouts. It was described to me as follows. "In the States whoever is in the roundabout has the right of way. In Libya whoever is stronger has the right of way".

This can make for a stressful situation every time you leave the house. So I wondered allowed if the system just worked. If people naturally drove more hyper aware and thus safe in a chaotic system. It is not. I heard many accounts of frequent accidents and deaths and a reference to an article about 60 vehicle related deaths in the span of a week. Scary stuff.

It wasn't always like that though. When we went in 1996 the amount of cars on the road was a fraction of what it is today. After embargoes of the past lifted though, Libya had tons of cash on hand for development and the capacity to import new cars. Throw millions of cars at an infrastructure that was made for thousands and you get chaos. The trip was amazing and I didn't spend every waking moment fearing car travel, but I easily could have.

1 comment:

Crystal said...

Very nice description. It was funny though, that every time we got into a car the other people found it humorous to ask us over and over if we were scared.

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