Anyone who has actually been to Tbilisi will laugh at the title of this post – Safe driving in Tbilisi is definitely the exception not the rule here!
We don’t have a car here at the moment, so we are relegated to catching Taxis if we need to go somewhere. In saying this, we have found a couple of regular Taxi drivers who we have on call. One speaks English well but has a old car with no seatbelts in the backseat, another has his English speaking son on speed-dial to communicate with us! I also have a couple of lovely friends who very bravely drive here – apparently if you just expect everyone else to drive badly and expect to get a few beeps here and there it’s quite easy (and helps to have a bigger car than other drivers!)
We often get taxi’s with Bubba, so he sits on our lap in the backseat, or on the seat next to me while I hold on to him. This is quite normal here even in private cars. You will more often than not see young kids standing in the back seat of the car, or looking out the back window while their parents weave in and out of traffic. Seatbelts also seem to be a very casual thing here for backseat passengers.
Today, Bubba and I were out walking, and a car drove past us – I had to do a double take, as the man driving had his young son sitting on his lap, both of them holding the steering wheel whilst driving. Wow. Hadn’t seen that before in a moving vehicle!
Many drivers also consider a red light to be a suggestion rather than a road rule. The green light turns from solid, flashes for a few seconds, then turns to the orange light, then the red light. So although drivers get more than ample notice that there is a red light coming, they seem to use that opportunity to speed up and race through the orange or red light. So, if ever crossing the road, you really need to triple check that all cars are slowing to stop at the lights – and when walking across a 3 or 4 lane road, you also need to continually check that the far lanes have stopped as you are walking across – ( or haven’t started to go again before you have crossed the whole way across!) I am particularly cautious if I have Bub in the pram in front of me!!!
Then, if the cars at the lights haven’t started to go again by the time the green light comes on (ie. if someone is waiting for pedestrians to cross the road), he will be beeped / honked at by almost every car in the line behind him. Everyone is in a rush here while driving – but never on time anywhere – Georgian’s are not known for their punctuality!!
Don’t even get me started about Zebra crossings!!! I don’t know what their intention is here, but cars definately do not think they are a suggestion to slow down and give way to pedestrians!
There was a recent article about how Georgia will need to improve their driving standards (dramatically) if /when they sign an EU Association Agreement – read it HERE. They have a long way to go, but hopefully in the next few years, driving standards will improve and pedestrians will stop being a target every time they cross the road!
Oh… there is so many examples I could give you of bad driving in Tbilisi, and what people consider a totally acceptable street park here would give you a laugh! But I’ll leave it at that for now and go put the baby to bed. 🙂