Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
Road conditions in Turkmenistan make driving difficult and sometimes dangerous. Most roads outside of major cities are narrow, riddled with potholes, unlit at night, and without proper road signs. Frequent construction projects, dilapidated roads, unlighted highways, and camel crossings all present particularly unique challenges to drivers used to U.S. or European roadways. Driving at night on these roads should be avoided. City roads are better in comparison to rural routes but may be hazardous due to potholes, uncovered manholes, poor lighting, and heavy pedestrian traffic. Pedestrians frequently cross against traffic and create dangerous conditions. Traffic accidents involving serious injury to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are common.
If you drive in Turkmenistan, you will need to drive defensively and use an abundance of caution. Drivers pay little attention to lanes and other road markings, with weaving and sudden lane changes a common occurrence (usually without use of a turn signal). Drivers will often encounter cars going the wrong way on one-way streets or divided highways. Cars also frequently make left-turns from the right lane and vice-versa. Pedestrians regularly walk or stand in the middle of busy streets during the day and night, often without paying attention to oncoming traffic.
Roadside assistance does not exist in Turkmenistan, where vast stretches of highway are often unmarked. Police checkpoints (where cars are required to stop and register) are a common feature on major routes between cities. The U.S. Embassy in Ashgabat has received reports that police stationed at checkpoints may arbitrarily fine motorists. Local law requires that traffic fines be paid within 12 hours. If a fine is not paid within that period, the amount may double every 12 hours up to 72 hours, after which time the vehicle in question may be seized. Driving while intoxicated is illegal in Turkmenistan and will result in the driver having their license revoked, a fine, and possible jail time. Driving while operating a cell phone is illegal and perpetrators will be fined.
If you plan to drive in Turkmenistan, you must have a valid international driving permit. Foreigners who plan to reside in Turkmenistan must apply for a local driver's license with the Road Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Turkmenistan. For more specific information about driving in Turkmenistan, contact the Embassy of Turkmenistan at 2207 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20008, telephone (202) 588-1500.
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