Tips to Improve Driving in Azerbaijan
It’s a fairly simple recommendation: put your road signs into the local language. Seriously. That’s it. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice this earlier, but as I have been walking around Lənkəran lately, it hit me that the stop signs are in English. What? Yes, they say STOP. This is sort of bizarre. I’m not sure why the stop signs aren’t in Azeri, or even Russian. Instead, they are the same red octagon with the white trim and white, sans serif block font in all capital letters. And in English. I can think of two possibilities here: SAXLA or DAYAN. If you wanted to put it into a more polite form, we could have signs that spell out SAXLAYIN or DAYANIN.
This is all slightly in jest (though I do think have Azerbaijani-language signs would make more sense). Anyone who has walked down a street in Azerbaijan knows that driving here is an exercise in practicing terribly dangerous acts with a 1000 lb. tinfoil capsule, the Russian-made Lada. You know these guys are looking at the signs. Next time you venture over to Today.Az, count on the right side news ticker how many items involve car crashes. It’s sort of absurd (as much a commentary on the quality of news coverage here as it is on the poor driving).
On a slightly more serious note, I have recently been to Ağcabədi, where I was pleasantly surprised to find speed bumps on a long straightaway of road. Taking a taxi along this street, I found that the driver actually respected the speed bumps. The driver slowed down, didn’t attempt to go around them at white-knuckled speed, and, despite the ride being punctuated by the jarring of the bumps, it was rather pleasant to be going a reasonable speed. Where law enforcement refuses to attempt to make streets safe for the pedestrians, I am now a staunch advocate of frequent speed bumps.