Driving in Romania

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        Driver on #13687

        We’re on an air-and-road trip to Romania (RO for short) to see family. Last week, we rented a Dacia Duster. It’s a local made, robust little SUV with a manual transmission. The white Duster carried us into the mountains for daily hiking, caving and overeating. (Such fantastic food and drink!)
        During a trip up the hills, writer Bruce Dorries gotBuy Photo

        During a trip up the hills, writer Bruce Dorries got lots of moral support from “bunica” (grandma), seen here during a stop (bottom left corner). (Photo: Bruce Dorries/Special to The News Leader)

        On Romanian roads, we witnessed driver overconfidence and impatience at astonishing levels. I got many years worth of backseat driving tips — and alarms — from my mother-in-law. “Broos, be careful! Is dane-jar-oes here!”

        Lots of moral support, too, from “bunica” (grandma): “Really, this one is so stupeed!” “I cannot believe how stupeed is this, driver!” “Look out for this stupeed coming on the right!”

        Not once did she call me stupid or critique my driving. But, to be fair, Romanian drivers are both better and worse than American drivers, as are their byways.

        The country has one of the highest rates of road traffic deaths in the Europe Union. However, their national rate it is lower than that in the USA, according to a World Health Organization report. We’re among the more dangerous drivers in the world.

        Romanian drivers can navigate through crowded Sunday afternoon road markets in mountain villages, and dart around cows, sheep, dogs and shepherds that share the lanes. Roads vary from superior four-lane highways to rutted, punishing high-altitude passages. Their A1 Highway has a 130 kilometer per hour limit (about 80 mph), though truckers must travel much slower. For that reason alone, I’d take it any day over Interstate 81.

        On the other hand, Romanians love speed. And passing. Almost anywhere. Too frequently with fatal results.

        The man from whom we rented the Duster lost his father a month ago. A motorist hit the retired grandfather as he pedaled home.

        On the RO roads, I got in the habit of pulling over to let tailgaters blow past, and slowing way down to safely overtake cyclists. I plan to make both regular habits back when we get back. I haven’t always been a model driver for the kids.

        Cliched Vacation Insight: Life is too fragile and precious to be so hurried.

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