Imagine what it would be like if everyone drove like a 17-year-old boy with all his friends in the car.
Welcome to Romania.
To call Romanian drivers aggressive would be an understatement. Adventurous? A better word. Reckless? That may be the most accurate.
As soon as I pulled on the road outside the Bucharest airport I had people passing me in wildly dangerous places with no regard for what might be coming in the other direction. If the Romanians see driving as a measure of your manhood, I failed miserably. People rocketed past my car (Chevy Captiva diesel 5-speed) and glanced over as they passed. They must have expected to see an old woman behind the wheel and laughed as they left me in their dust.
Here in America you occasionally see a roadside memorial marking the spot of a highway tragedy. In Romania they are everywhere. The State Department says:
“According to the European Union Road Federation, Romania has the highest per vehicle rate of traffic fatalities of any country in the EU. It is essential for drivers to practice defensive driving techniques.”
“Traffic accidents are arguably the single most dangerous threat for American citizens visiting Romania.”
Nevertheless, I dipped my toe into the pool of Romanian road manners. This did not go well with my wife, Ann, who shut her eyes and yelled at me whenever I went to overtake one of the ancient Dacias that you see everywhere — or a horsedrawn cart, which you also see everywhere. “You do want to get there, don’t you?”
That earned me the look. You don’t want the look when you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself, do you?
As for the roads, don’t believe everything you see on a map. In the US you can reliably expect that roads shown on a map have relatively normal driving conditions. Assume nothing in Romania. For example, on the map the road from Fagaras to Apold looks perfectly normal — and for a few minutes it is until you get to the part with the giant potholes you need to drive around. Eventually the road just turns to dirt, where the only thing to worry about is the huge puddles. And dogs. And chickens. A depth meter would have been more useful than a GPS. I had neither.
Another fun fact: “The World Economic Forum ranks Romania 126 out of 134 states for road quality.”
By the way, traffic cirlces are also very big. Now I know where DOT got that idea.