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Expat Confessional–3 ways I suck at driving in Serbia

by Laura on March 11th, 2013

Driving in and around Belgrade is not easy. [Understatement.]

Things don’t make sense (literally, as in I’m illerate in Cyrillic). It’s New York City-type-driving on steroids. Lanes are more narrow, drivers cut-it-closer, with just the slightest bit of aggression. No, I’m not implying all Serbs are aggressive, I’m still a semi-PC-American, remember? People are skilled, not nasty drivers.

I will never understand the traffic patterns here.

While I do consider myself a competent, safe driver, but please don’t ask my husband his opinion, I will now provide a few examples to elucidate why and how I truly … suck at driving in Serbia.

1. The Protected Green Left-turn Light.

Doesn’t sound so hard, right? It (should) mean I have the right-of-way to make my left turn safely.

Not so.

These lights coincide with green walk signs for pedestrians who are crossing the very intersection through which I’m attempting to drive.

Seriously. It is extremely disconcerting to see grandmas slowly shuffling and I hope to dear god they don’t fall and break a hip crossing these intersections. What I want to know is … Why give me the go-ahead with a protected green light? Why Serbia-traffic-laws, why?

Those sneaky protected green lights mess with my head.

Which brings me to Confession #1: I may have slammed my breaks on more than one occasion to keep from flattening a man-in-a-jaunty-white-jacket-who-nearly-lost-his-life, sorry! pedestrian who sprinted into the intersection at the last possible moment.

2. Un-marked lanes, which are actually reserved for … trams. Yes, as in electric trains on the street

Belgrade has electric trams, like those quaint street cars in San Francisco. Here, they sometimes have own dedicated lanes. No big deal, right?

Confession #2: Ummmm, I may have driven in tram lane once or twice. Don’t judge … it was empty, as in tram-free!

These lanes aren’t properly marked (see above, re: Laura’s illiteratacy), so to the stupid American driver and even a casual observer, they are merely unused lanes perfect for getting a leg-up on backed up traffic.

3. Invisible traffic lights

On the subject of unmarked-things-you-need-to-see-when-driving-a-car (and, yes, I was wearing my glasses, thank you for asking) … Most traffic lights have some “protective material” that reflects the light, thereby making it nearly impossible to ascertain the light’s status … until one is nearly in the intersection.

Confession #3: I may have run a red light (let’s call it pink, not quite red) but not on purpose!

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12 Comments
  1. Sounds much trickier than driving in my little Canadian town…my main complaint is about the little old drivers who don't believe in going more than 10 kph–and always when I'm in a hurry!

    • Laura permalink

      Sylvia,
      Well, we do have our "slower" cars here, but they are actually busses, and they, too cut-it-too-close for my comfort, at least.
      Laura

  2. On the positive side, you are now well-primed to drive in the middle east!

    • Laura permalink

      Ha! Good call … I never thought of it that way. That is, if I'm allowed to drive in the individual middle eastern country :)

  3. Laura, this sounds terrifying!!!

    • Laura permalink

      At times, yes, but I do enjoy driving, and get to do it so rarely these days … (possibly for the best)

  4. I suppose we who live in America should be grateful for our (overabundance) of laws protecting us from the things you deal with on a daily basis. It's all a matter of perspective which I imagine is exactly what you tell yourself to fight the panic over that oncoming car swerving into your lane at speeds that make a galloping leopard look like a turtle.

    • Laura permalink

      Exactly. I always try to leave enough leeway time when trying to get anywhere with my children–they hate to be rushed, and it's better for me not to try to rush, either, when I'm behind the wheel.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. As I see in the picture, that is the weirdest traffic light I've ever seen. It looks like a headlight instead. In my opinion, driving is not only a problem in Serbia, it's this world's problem. So I think we just get used to it. I also stuck 2 hours by traffic jam every day in my home town.

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