An interview published recently by ‘Jurnalul National’ newspaper returns to discussion a problem that is always actual: the way Romanians drive. Going in the streets of Bucharest and the rest of the country, we obviously know the answer. We must admit that the subject of the interview – Lucian Dinita, the head of the Road Department of the General Police Inspectorate – gives a brief, but most accurate answer: the lack of training, the lack of traffic education, the nonobservance of the traffic laws, and the nonobservance of laws in general, made their way to the genes of the Romanian driver. One cannot stop from noticing that, if until now the Romanian driver was causing road events in Romania, by crossing the border he started producing a series of very serious road accidents abroad.
How did we reach this situation? Trying to find an answer to this question, I cannot stop from thinking about my own experience as a driver.
I must admit that I became a driver at an age when today’s youths already have a thorough experience behind the wheel. And they drive cars I could not even imagine, when I was of their age.
I was little above 30 when, as a foreign policy columnist, I was proposed to go to Rome, as correspondent of the Romanian press agency ‘Agerpres.’ One of the first tasks was to take my driving license before leaving. Although, by chance, I was in a close dialogue with the head of the Road Police of that time, Colonel Victor Beda (author of many books about road traffic), I followed the respective courses for several months. At the end of the training, I passed the theory and practical examinations, which were by no means easy, just like all other trainees.
Thus, when I went to Rome, I already had the driving license in my pocket. Naturally, when I saw the traffic in Rome I was scared. The first thing I did was to enter a “driving school” in order to get used to the traffic. It is said that Rome was – and I think it still is – the city with an impossible traffic. Little by little, I got used to it. I drove in Rome and on Italian motorways for more than four years. During this whole interval I had only one incident, totally insignificant, when I entered a petrol station without signaling, near Lake Braciano.
After 1990, I traveled to various European countries and, of course, to Italy by car, for thousands and thousands of kilometers. I liked, and still like to drive in Italy, not only because of the thousands of kilometers of motorways, but also because of how Italians drive. Problems appear mainly on weekend nights, when youths leave discos or night clubs…
I cannot say the same about Romania. If, in the first years after 1990, I was still making trips to Prahova Valley, now I abandoned them definitively. (I cannot forget that, several years ago, it took me 4 hours and a half to drive from Corbeanca to Buzau – about 170 km – while in Northern Italy – from Venice to Vigo di Fassa – I drove 450 km in the same time interval of 4 hours and a half. I am not annoyed by traffic, I am not too annoyed even by the condition of roads, it is only the way Romanians drive that annoys me.
Here, I cannot, without any doubt, stop from approving the chief of the Road Police. But we also should not forget the things about which the press wrote on not just one occasion. I mean the cases of driving licenses obtained against money, rather than based on driving skills. I mean excessive speed, or failure to adapt speed. Overtakes, failure to grant the right-of-way to pedestrians a.s.o. On many occasions, while driving, one may think that Romanian drivers compete against themselves. The latest model of 4WD, driven by a 20 year old young man or woman, cannot conceive that it must patiently wait in line behind a Fiat Punto…
This explains the accidents we witness each day. Of course, infrastructure too has its role and importance. But, without instruction, without road education, without respect for road laws, we will not be able to progress. And the predominant conception of today – this is how I want to drive – will continue to dominate road traffic and to make new victims.