Monday, July 11, 2005

Driving in Jordan

Much has been said on the topic but having the pleasure of paying a recent visit to my dearest Jordan it's almost pointless having a blog and not talking about the Jordan Driving Experience.. coming to your car this summer :) As a driver from the states (let me be more specific, a small-town driver from the states) there are a few things that manage to overwhelm you the first few days of your visit. Some of these things in no particular order are:
1. Lack of the traffic concept of lanes.. let's just say that sticking to a lane and following proper lane changing maneuvers is considered optional and quite rarely practiced.
2. IF proper laning exists, it will all go to hell at the first sign of a traffic light.. a 2 lane street would become a 3 or 4 lane intersection. Oh, and you can count on someone in the right most lane wanting to make a left turn, or someone in the left turn lane wanting to go through they're just stopping there because the queue was shorter than that in the through lanes.
3. Pedestrians can be found Anywhere on the roadway at any time. At least one kid will have a life or death race with you, attempting to cheat time-space principles and occupy the space that would naturally be your vehicle's with his own body.
4. You will be caught in a jam at least once on a roundabout and find yourself cursing out loud either some fellow driver, the roundabout itself, or any random thing that was pissing you off that day.
5. If you do get pissed off enough over the behavior of a fellow driver, and you follow the standard operating procedure of pissed-offness while driving in the US, you will be faced with one of 2 possible outcomes; you will learn/re-remember how the Arabic finger looks like, or someone will genuinely and whole heartedly attempt to beat you up.
6. Oh, you will get more use out of your horn in the 1 month vacation in Jordan than 2 years worth in Small Town USA.
7. The use of turn signals is optional.

I know I'm being very negative but there are some things to consider. One important issue is the heavily burdened road infrastructure in Jordan, there are simply too many vehicles for the existing streets capacity. It's by the grace of God, and the skill of Jordanian drivers that the accidents rate is not double or triple what it is, and that the whole system does not come to a total gridlock. In Amman, the Amaneh (Amman Municipality) does a great job with the tunnels and bridges to relieve traffic jams, however outside of Amman that effort is nonexistent. Another positive thing is an intensive traffic awareness campaign using signs on the streets and local media. Something that I really appreciate is that Jordanian drivers know how to use their hazard lights (Flasharat) and also hand signals! You don't see that much in the states. One last remark I'll make is that this summer I witnessed the return of the traffic policeman with the lightning rod hat! Those things were out of commission way back and it was a real treat seeing them again :) I'm attaching an old picture of one, too bad you can't see the whole rod.. but you get the idea :)

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