Third World Driving Hints and Tips

Ok, time for more stuff I found somewhere on the internet. This is an excerpt from P J O’Rourke’s absolutely hilarious book Holidays in Hell:

By P. J. O’Rourke

Over the years I’ve done my share of driving in the Third World — in Pakistan, Africa, Asia, Germany and Texas. (Germany and Texas are not technically part of the Third World, but no one has told the Germans or Texicans.) I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I have made a few notes. Maybe these notes will be useful to readers who are planning to do something really stupid with their Hertz #1 Club cards.

What would be a road hazard anyplace else, in the Third World is probably the road. There are two techniques for coping with this. One is to drive very fast so your wheels “get on top” of the ruts and your car sails over the ditches, gullies and pot holes. Predictably, this will result in disaster. The other technique is to drive very slow. This will result in disaster. No matter how slowly you drive into a ten-foot hole, you’re still going to get hurt. You’ll find the locals themselves can’t make up their minds. Either they drive at 2 mph — which they do when there’s absolutely no way to get around them. Or else they drive at 100 mph — which they do coming right at you when you finally get a chance to pass the guy going 2 mph.

It’s important to have your facts straight before you begin piloting a car around an underdeveloped country. For instance, which side of the road do they drive on? This is easy. They drive on your side. That is, and you can depend on it, any oncoming traffic will be on your side of the road. Also, how do you translate kilometers into miles? Most people don’t know this, but one kilometer = ten miles, exactly. True, a kilometer is only 62% of a mile, but, if something is 100 kilometers away, read that as one thousand miles because the roads are 620% worse than anything you’ve ever seen. And when you see a 50-kph speed limit, you might as well figure that means 500 mph because nobody cares. The Third World does not have Brodrick Crawford and the Highway Patrol. Outside the cities, it doesn’t have many police at all. Law enforcement is in the hands of the army. And soldiers, if they feel like it, will shoot you no matter what speed you’re going. Remember, taxis and buses can stop anywhere they please. There’s nothing you can do, deal with it.

Most developing nations use international traffic symbols. Americans may find themselves perplexed by road signs that look like Boy Scout merit badges and by such things as an iguana silhouette with a red diagonal bar across it. Don’t worry, the natives don’t know what they mean, either. The natives do, however, have an elaborate set of signals used to convey information to the traffic around them. For example, if you’re trying to pass someone and he blinks his left turn signal, it means go ahead. Either that or it means a large truck is coming around the bend, and you’ll get killed if you try. You’ll find out in a moment. A down-waving hand out the window can mean, “I’m slowing down,” or it can mean, “You slow down, I’m cutting in front of you.” Again, you’ll find out in a moment.

Signaling is further complicated by festive decorations found on many vehicles. It can be hard to tell a hazard flasher from a string of Christmas-tree lights wrapped around the bumper, and brake lights can easily be confused with the dozen red Jesus statuettes and the ten stuffed animals with blinking eyes on the package shelf. Or you will be blinded by the light flashing off the CD hanging from the rear view mirror.

There is one universal signal worldwide… the single digit salute. Use it with extreme caution. Such action has been known to create mass riots and mayhem against the perpetrator.

Dangerous curves are marked, at least in Christian lands, by white wooden crosses positioned to make the curves even more dangerous. These crosses are memorials to people who’ve died in traffic accidents, and they give a rough statistical indication of how much trouble you’re likely to have at that spot in the road. Thus, when you come through a curve in a full-power slide and are suddenly confronted with a veritable forest of crucifixes, you know you’re dead.

It’s important to understand that in the Third World most driving is done with the horn, or “Egyptian Brake Pedal,” as it is known. There is a precise and complicated etiquette of horn use. Honk your horn only under the following circumstances:

1. When anything blocks the road.
2. When anything doesn’t.
3. When anything might.
4. At red lights.
5. At green lights.
6. At all other times.

Drivers in the Third World NEVER look at the other guy. That way, no matter what they do, it’s okay. And the most important rule when driving at night… turn off your lights. You’ll save your battery that way.

One thing you can count on in Third World countries is trouble. There’s always some uprising, coup or marxist insurrection going on, and this means military roadblocks. There are two kinds of military roadblocks, the kind where you slow down so they can look you over, and the kind where you come to a full stop so they can steal your luggage. The important thing is that you must never stop at the slow-down kind of roadblock. If you stop, they’ll think you are a terrorist about to shoot them, and they’ll shoot you. And you must always stop at the full-stop kind of roadblock. If you just slow down, they’ll think you are a terrorist about to attack them, and they’ll shoot you. How do you tell the difference between the two kinds of roadblocks? Here’s the fun part: You can’t!

(The terrorists, of course, have roadblocks of their own. They always make you stop. Sometimes with land mines.)

As a rule of thumb, you should slow down for donkeys and pedestrians, speed up for goats and stop for cows. Donkeys will get out of your way eventually, and so will pedestrians. But never actually stop for either of them or they’ll take advantage, especially the pedestrians. If you stop in the middle of a crowd of Third World pedestrians, you’ll be there buying chewing gum and bogus antiquities for days.

Drive like hell through the goats. It’s impossible to hit a goat. On the other hand, it’s almost impossible not to hit a cow. Cows are immune to horn-honking, shouting, swats with sticks and taps on the hind quarters with the bumper. The only thing you can do to make a cow move is swerve to avoid it, which will make the cow move in front of you with lightning speed.

Actually, the most dangerous animals are the chickens. In the United States, when you see a ball roll into the street, you hit your brakes because you know the next thing you’ll see is a kid chasing it. In the Third World, it’s not balls the kids are chasing, but chickens. Are they practicing punt returns with a leghorn? Dribbling it? Playing stick-hen? I don’t know. But Third Worlders are remarkably fond of their chickens and, also, their children (population problems notwithstanding). If you hit one or both, they may survive. But you will not.

Never look where you’re going — you’ll only scare yourself. Nonetheless, try to avoid collisions. There are bound to be more people in that bus, truck or even on that Moped than there are in your car. (Especially be watchful for delivery mopeds carrying 10 bottles of butane gas…) At best you’ll be screamed deaf. And if the police do happen to be around, standard procedure is to throw everyone in jail regardless of fault. This is done to forestall blood feuds, which are a popular hobby in many of these places. Remember the American Consul is very busy fretting about that Marxist insurrection, and it may be months before he comes to visit.

If you do have an accident, the only thing to do is go on the offensive. Throw big wads of American money at everyone, and hope for the best.

One thing about the Third World, you don’t have to fasten your safety belt. (Or stop smoking. Or cut down on saturated fats.) It takes a lot off your mind when the average life expectancy is forty-five minutes.


5 thoughts on “Third World Driving Hints and Tips

  1. Pingback: Reisile kolmanda maailma riikidesse – tehnikaga või tehnikata? « Digitark

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