Traffic and Road Conditions in Russia

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions

You may encounter road conditions and driver safety norms that differ significantly from those in the United States. As a pedestrian, exercise great care near traffic, as vehicles frequently fail to yield to pedestrians. In some areas of Russia, roads are practically nonexistent. When driving, adhere to all local driving regulations, as they are strictly enforced and violators are subject to severe legal penalties. Russia practices a zero-tolerance policy with regard to alcohol consumption prior to driving. The maximum punishment is a two-year suspension of a driver's license. Authorities may detain an intoxicated driver until they determine that he or she is sober.

Avoid excessive speed and, if possible, do not drive at night, particularly outside of major cities. In rural areas, it is not uncommon to find livestock crossing roadways at any given time. Construction sites or stranded vehicles are often unmarked by flares or other warning signals. Sometimes cars have only one working headlight and many cars lack taillights. Bicycles seldom have lights or reflectors. Due to these road conditions, be prepared for sudden stops at any time. Learn about your route from an auto club, guidebook, or government tourist office. Some routes have heavy truck and bus traffic, while others have poor or nonexistent shoulders; many are one-way or do not permit left turns. In addition, some of the newer roads have very few restaurants, motels, gas stations, or auto repair shops along their routes. For your safety, have your vehicle serviced and in optimum condition before you travel. It is also wise to bring an extra fan belt, fuses, and other spare parts. In the Russian Far East most vehicles are right-side drive, affording the drivers limited visibility on two-lane roads.

If you are involved in an automobile accident while in Russia, leave your car in the location where the accident occurred and wait for local officials to arrive. Do not move your car from the location where the accident occurred or you may be held liable even if you are not at fault. Drivers may have to wait several hours for local police to arrive at the scene.

Temporary visitors to Russia may drive for up to 60 days with a valid U.S. driver's license and a notarized Russian translation. Tourists may also use International Driving Permits issued by the American Automobile Association or the American Automobile Touring Alliance to drive in Russia. Russian law requires foreigners on business or employment visas or with permanent residence status to have a Russian driver's license. In order to obtain this license one has to take the appropriate exams in Russian. Travelers may not use a U.S. driver's license in place of a Russian license. Travelers without a valid license are often subject to prolonged stops by police.

Drivers must carry third-party liability insurance under a policy valid in Russia. U.S. automobile liability insurance is not valid in Russia, nor are most collision and comprehensive coverage policies issued by U.S. companies. A good rule of thumb is to buy coverage equivalent to that which you carry in the United States.

Roadside checkpoints are commonplace and are ostensibly in place to detect narcotics, alien smuggling, and firearms violations. However, traffic police sometimes use these checkpoints to extract cash "fines."

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2019 edition