by Markus Stolz

Fast and furious

byMarkus Stolz
October 20, 2009, 5 Comments

MotocrossGreeks interpret even basic traffic regulations differently than most of us. Somehow the relaxed way of enjoying life does not extend to driving. Even worse, it is replaced with the passionate temperament only Greeks seem to be capable of. Life on the roads is fast and furious.

  • Where in most countries the normal reaction to a traffic light turning yellow from green is to slow down, in Greece you speed up and hope to make it just a second ot two after it turns red. This can cause all sorts of problems: If you are in the car in front, better check your rear-view mirror before hitting the brake pedal. If you are in the car behind, look ahead, as some drivers heed the yellow traffic light, although this happens less frequently. If your traffic light turns green, never start driving without checking the road in front of you first. Chances are very high that 2 to 3 cars will have jumped the other traffic light, so be prepared.
  • Zebra crossings are nothing but a welcome colour pattern on the streets. If you are a pedestrian, the only safe option to use a zebra crossing is to wait until no car is in sight. You might think I am joking – I am not.
  • The most important tools to use are the rear-view mirrors of your car. It is impossible to not getting involved in an accident without the constant use of them. Most countries have established rules from what side you overtake another vehicle on the motorway. In the majority of the countries, it is from the left, in the UK and the former English colonies it happens from the right. In Greece, most drivers overtake from the left, the middle, and the right. Motorcycle users follow a different rule: They simply overtake you from wherever it is most unexpected and most dangerous. I had the biggest shock when a motocross bike in a bendy road – freestyle on one wheel – overtook me. This sounds wild, but it really happened.
  • If you park your car, never just open the door to get out. Slowly open the door while keeping your head turned 90 degrees and watch actively. It does not matter from which side you wish to exit – you’d be surprised what catches you can make with the door of your car.
  • One-way roads are mostly meant as shortcuts to be entered from the forbidden side. Be expected to be yelled at when coming from the other side – you are in the way.
  • When seeing a car with blinking warning flashlights, it simply means that they are looking for a parking space. This is the reason why most people will gesture at you and point to a free parking space, even when your car broke down and you look for help.
  • 30 km/h zones in populated areas seem to be viewed by most drivers as the minimum speed needed by pedestrians to jump out of the way.
  • It must be impossible to make a living in Greece with a shop that sells helmets and protective gear for motorcycles. For most part of the year, you only encounter motorcycle drivers in T-shirt, shorts, and without a helmet.
  • Thankfully new technology in cars forces you nowadays to wear a seatbelt. I remember well that I was once thrown out of a taxi because I insisted on wearing the seatbelt. Apparently the driver felt insulted and thought I did not trust his driving skills. So please, do not get into a taxi that looks older then 10 years, it might not be equipped with the warning bell that goes off if you don’t wear a seatbelt.
  • Technology also catches up with drivers on the motorway. In most countries, the electronic billboards are used regulate traffic. In Greece, they fulfil an additional function: Educational messages like “Indicate before switching lanes”, or “Overtake from the left” have run unsuccessfully for years now.

More stories about everyday life in Greece can be found here.

Share Button

About Markus Stolz

Over the last years, I have come to really appreciate Greek wines. There are many grape varieties that exist only in Greece and I have the good fortune of being able to try them all. I wish to share my enthusiasm with wine lovers around the world, who often limit themselves to maybe four red and four white grape varieties for most of their life.

  1. philosOctober 21, 2009, 12:11 am

    As a Greek, I have to admit that the biggest part of your post is true, although things are getting better year by year. Even the taxi drivers…and especially the motorcyclists. Only a very minor part in nowadays still doesn’t use helmet.
    The problem is that if you drive a lot daily, for sure you have to keep in mind the aforesaid because for sure you will find a few cars not stopping in the first two seconds of a red light or driving too fast in small city roads or near schools or parks.
    Unfortunately last Thursday in the National Road in the suburbs of Athens (very close to our area – 200m from Lainopoulos) a small car hit deadly an employee of a road assistant company while he was attempting to trail a car upon his truck. The worst thing of this case which clearly show how irresponsible some drivers are, is that the driver who killed the employee didn’t even stop after the accident and now he is still wanted!

    And as a cyclist amateur athlete myself I stopped cycling in main roads yeas ago because twice I avoided in the last second to be hit by cars …

  2. elloinosOctober 21, 2009, 7:43 am

    Philos, thank you very much for your engagement. I do agree with you that things are getting better every year. I am not sure about the motorcyclists, maybe they use helmets only during the winter months :)

    There are some actions that I simply cannot understand: Many mothers still hold their babies in their arms instead of using a properly protective child seat. It is still not common to wear a seatbelt while sitting in the back of a car…I think these are the real serious issues. But I also can see the improvements that have taken place over the last years.

  3. Kostas KatsoulierisOctober 22, 2009, 12:39 am

    Greeks’ affinity to cars as well as the fact that the traffic police are not uniform in either their enforcement of the laws or in their presence on the roads are central to quality of life issues that plague this city / country, be it noise and exhaust pollution, overloaded roads, stress not to mention the saddest fact of all: Greece vies every year with Portugal for the highest number of road deaths per capita in Europe. If you add up the figures you will see that the equivalent of a small village disappears every year on the roads of Greece…

    Keep up the good work on your blog!

  4. elloinosOctober 22, 2009, 7:27 am

    Kosta, thank you for the excellent addition. Every Easter, when half of the country travels to visit their families, I think about how many of them will not come back because of accidents. Very sad indeed.