Friday, August 04, 2006

Is it safe to drive in Libya?

I've only been driving here in Libya for the past few months. In the beginning I was afraid, but I've gotten over the initial fear and I'm getting pretty good at it. Actually, being a passenger is probably worse than being the driver because as a passenger you have no control. Also, I've come to realise that my husband is an awful driver - not that he can't drive, he's good at it. His problem is that from the moment he gets behind the wheel of the car he becomes 'Mr. Road Rage'. That makes me nervous. I hate going anywhere with him driving, and if I'm driving he is yelling at other drivers and at me too!

I'm happy in the car. I get in and put on some music, put on the air conditioner and away I go. If some idiot with road rage wants to cut in front of me, I let them. If another idiot behind me wants to entertain the world with the music from his horn, I just turn up the volume on my CD player and let them honk away to their hearts content.

Big Damn Heroes has a nice post about driving here. One thing that I really hate are the traffic circles. Death traps, for sure! The fact that no one follows any traffic rules or laws make me think that there probably aren't any.

Many Libyans have decided to limit the amount of speeding that's done in their neighbourhoods by creating traffic bumps (in the UK they are called sleeping policemen). These homemade traffic bumps are dangerous. I don't know how many times I have hit one that I had not seen and nearly had an accident! You have to slow down and go over them really carefully. I have a mental map of all the traffic bumps and potholes on the roads I frequently travel.

A few years ago the street near my house was widened and resurfaced. Cars were flying down the road and we were worried about the kids crossing it to go to school. We had also been having a big problem with the boys hot rodding near our house, trying to impress the girls at the nearby high school. My husband went to the agency that dealt with traffic signs, etc. and asked if they would come out and put up some signs and traffic bumps so none of the children would get killed. They said 'Make us a map of where you want the bumps and the signs and we will be more than happy to install them.' So we did just that! - Within 48 hours the traffic bumps and signs were in place! Actually they were very happy to do it and said that no one ever asks them, they'd be more than happy to put them in for anyone who requested them. Aaaahhhhhh.... everyone in Libya complains, but no one thinks to complain to the right place!

I still plan on taking a defensive driving course, if I ever get a spare moment or two.


  1. Something done on request in less than 48 hours - are we talking about L I B Y A???

    Things sure have changed!

  2. Yes.... it came as a surprise to us that they would get the work done so quickly. We were quite pleased. They put in three different speed bumps, painted crosswalks and put in reflector lights as well as signs warning of school children and warning morotists that there were speed bumps ahead.

    The official speedbumps are smooth when you drive over them and don't damage your car.

    Now we look at the street with pride. We may have saved someone's life or at least minimised the chances of a fatal accident.

  3. Khadijateri, I was just going to request that it is time you give us a post about how having your own car has changed your life in Libya.

    You are right knowing which authority to contact is the most important thing to get your things done in Libya.

  4. oh, i am totally amazed that it was done so quickly, i remember driving in that trafic once and it was fun, although, i had to be alert...i was told that more children die or get hurt because of the drivers. congrats, usually, its who you know, who they know,and who knows them and so on and so on and then, it might be awhile, wow! curious though, why do they drive like that? maybe in other countries they drive crazy too.

  5. Hi sis Khadija; today you have pointed ou a very important subject. Firstly, it tuches our daily life and secondly it is supposed to be one of the features that defines the civilization of any country. In this subject ther is education, law enforcement and manahement. Actually, Dirving in Libya is a big danger not because of tha poor road network and the quality of streets, but because of the ignorance of drivers (most of them) and absence of law enforcement. It is a long story, but I can give you only one example; look at the behaviour of drivers at the round abouts, no one stops at the entrance to the roundabout. Actually, most of them enters the roundabout with the same spped of the approach road and they expects others inside the roundabout will stop and give way to them!!. This means those drivers either don’t know the rule or the entintialy break it, and I’ve never seen any trafficpolice doing anything about this.
    Regarding the case you have demonstrated about the prompt response of the athurities when they installed the traffic bombs and pedistrain crossing in your place in 48 hours after you have requested that. Pleased to hear such news, but this gives you an idea about the way these authorities are working. If this arrangenets were justified they’ve should make them with no request from your side and they have shoud make them in other places where they are needed too. It only means they have no plans, no studies, no assessment of the propblems and they don’t know what to do. Finaly, This dialouge you are offering on your blog is very interesting and isn’t available at those athurities.

  6. Thanks for your comments Dr Imbarek. Since you are a 'road specialist' (I read your blog about paving matierials, etc.). Can you tell me where to go about reporting the potholes in the roads?

    Tripoli's roads are full of potholes - most likely caused by the soft earth beneath the roads and the heavy traffic. But they need constant repair - where to ask to have someone come out and pour a bit or asphalt in the holes, at the very least?

  7. Hi sis Khadija; potholes and other pavement damage repairs are the responsibility of the People's committee for housing and utilities, dept of projects (this is for roads within the city)and the Department of Roads and Bridges (for main roads outside the cities). Actually, the problem of roads in Libya so far is the absence of maintenance programs in general. Now they are talking about a huge national plan for repairs and maintenance for main highways. For the city (Tripoli) I’m not sure if there is such program or not but i can see some road works going here an there optimistic and hope for a real and permanent maintenance program.

  8. Thanks for the infor Dr Imbarek - so I guess it basically means we just pray.... or get busy and fill the potholes ourselves.

  9. Yes Khadija ,
    Driving in Libya is quite difficult, cause you really have to be focussed not only on your driving but at that of ALL drivers on your side,front back etc......
    Another thing that nobody seemed to mention is, the avoidance of eye contact with ruthless drivers which is a problem not only in Libya but everywhere else in the world !!

  10. dear sister khad,
    what causes accidents and tragidies here in libya is the absence of harmony ,when the others drive so fast ..just drive so fast and everything is gonna be allright ..take my golden advice !! the problem is with the lack of consistancy in a way...i wanna tell you somethin' which is no surprise , sneesing did cost some one two hundred dinars, almost his monthly salary you know to repair his car only because of the natural flickering of the eyes during sneesing ..he hit the roundabout right in the middle .. the funny side of the story it wasn't a joke..a real story!may be in the future a moving roundabouts could such a problem and provide harmonyto sick drivers.. sometimes you have to drive on and break the traffic laws ..well if you don't you 'll probably break the harmony the result will more harmfull..
    good luck,


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