Driving in Azerbaijan

 

Driving in Azerbaijan

 

Rule of the Road

Traffic in Azerbaijan drives on the right side of the road, in common with neighbouring Caucasian CIS (former USSR) countries.

 

 

Statistics (year 2007 figures)

Azerbaijan

UK comparison

Annual fatalities

1,107

3,298

Registered motor vehicles

784,018

34,327,520

Motorisation rate, (motor vehicles / 1,000 population)

93

565

Fatality rate, (deaths / 10,000 motor vehicles)

14

1.0

Fatality risk, (road deaths / 100,000 population)

13

5.4

Fatality quotient, (fatality rate x fatality risk)

185

5

Fatalities / 1,000 km road

41

8

Road length, km

27,016

392,342

Paved roads, %

50

100

Road density, (road km / land area km2)

0.31

1.6

Vehicle density, (motor vehicles / km)

29

87

Population density, (population / km2)

98

249

  

Statistics Summary

Despite Azerbaijan being a small former Soviet state, having a low motorisation rate, low vehicle density, and population density much less than the UK, the fatality rate is much higher than the UK. Fatality rates were reducing through the 1990s, but unfortunately now they are on a definite upward trend again.

 

 

 

 

 

Driving Environment

The environment of Azerbaijan varies significantly, hot Mediterranean-like summers and cold winters. Much of the terrain is fertile plain between wooded rolling hills, bounding the west side of the Caspian Sea.

 

 

Driver Behaviour.

After speeding, lane discipline is the greatest single problem when driving in Baku, the capital city, in several respects. Where a multilane road bends slightly, each driver will ignore all other traffic alongside and swerve across to take the straightest possible line, potentially sideswiping others and leaving mayhem in his wake. Baku has many very wide main roads, typically marked as 3 lanes in each direction, although drivers typically travel 5 abreast in each direction on a 3 lane road.

A common driving style is to continue at high speed to the next set of traffic signals, leaving the braking as late as possible, then brake as hard as the tyres and road surface will permit.

 

 

 

 

   

Vehicles.

The vehicle stock is a mixture of some modern cars, but with many older East European and Russian manufactured cars e.g. Lada, remaining in use. The mechanical condition of some of the older cars leads to doubt regarding their roadworthiness, many having bald tyres deficient suspension, and inoperative lights. Most buses appear quite ancient, as are many of the lorries, and trolleybuses continue in use on a number of routes.

 

 

Speed Limits.

Speed is measured in km/h. Speed limits are not always signed well, and they are totally disregarded by most drivers, some travelling at around double the legal limit in the city. However, speed limits are vigorously policed with an on the spot fine for very minor infringements over a posted limit.

 

 

 

 

Traffic Signals.

Azerbaijan deploys several different signal sequences at different places and times. Many junctions display an unusual 4 phase sequence: green > amber > red > amber > green, i.e. with a single amber before and after the red. At other places the shorter 3 phase sequence: green > amber > red > green, is displayed; this sequence is becoming increasingly common world-wide.

At some newer junctions on roads with a higher speed limit, a 5 phase sequence is used having a flashing green displayed after the green, i.e. green > flashing-green > amber > red > amber > green.

Some junctions display only flashing-red in all directions for many hours when traffic is infrequent. This means stop, look, give way, and if safe drive on.

Flashing-amber is also sometimes displayed simultaneously to all legs of a junction, it means give way, and the traffic generally sorts itself out, although it appears chaos when watching.

Approaching a red traffic signal, many drivers will join the shortest queue regardless of the direction they intend to take from the junction. It is common to see a driver in the right hand lane intending to turn left across several lanes of traffic, all others of which are continuing ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

Road signs.

All regulatory, prohibitory, obligatory, hazard, directional, and advice signs are in accordance with the standard ISO (European) system. However, some junctions are marked with the old French style priority road (yellow diamond) signs, causing some confusion. Most road signs are positioned much higher above ground level than is typical in other countries. It is understood that this measure is to make them more difficult to steal, as the aluminium would have a high scrap value.

 

 

Road markings.

Road markings are generally good in Baku, but outside the city many are worn away or non-existent.

 

 

 

 

Kerb markings.

The kerb stones of many main roads are painted black and white alternately as an aid to discerning the road edge at night.

Trees line many roads, and in common with a few other countries, the bottom 1 metre of every tree trunk is painted white as this is believed to be a road safety feature.

 

 

 

 

  

Roundabouts.

Roundabouts are common, the give way line includes a triangular symbol to emphasise the need to give way.  At the roundabout entry the approach typically widens but without any lane markings whatsoever, to allow up to 8 or more rows of traffic side-by-side.

Some roundabouts on main roads are asymmetric, having some priorities reversed, i.e. priority is given to traffic on the main road to enter and leave the roundabout if turning right or going ahead, but with a stop line across the circulating carriageway.

 

 

Intersections.

Some are not marked, some are signed in the obsolete French style showing the minor road to have priority - take extreme care - always expect the other traffic to do the opposite of what you expect.

 

 

 

 

Pedestrian Crossings.

Zebra and pelican crossings are common in towns, however they are totally disregarded and drivers commonly swerve at speed around pedestrians on the crossing. And drivers typically don't stop at a red signal at a pelican crossing, they just drive through at speed. As a pedestrian do not trust any moving vehicles, always wait for the road to be completely clear of traffic before starting to cross. However, it is not easy for pedestrians to use the crossings, as drivers commonly park across zebra crossings.

 

 

 

 

Railway Crossings and tram lines

Beware of railway crossings, many are uncontrolled and some are poorly signed, always stop and look both ways. Look out for trams which may be sharing the road with you, or which may be crossing the road without any apparent signs, signals, gates, or barriers, although at some locations there may be traffic signals.

 

 

Highways.

Look and plan well ahead on highways and dual carriageways. It is common to find police checkpoints have been set up, typically comprising an inconspicuous steel railing across the carriageway. Shoulders are not well marked, and the central reservation does not have any form of barrier to prevent crossover head-on crashes.

 

 

 

 

City Driving.

Roads around Baku city are typically wide multi-lane streets, up to 6 lanes wide in some places, but the drivers seem oblivious to any lane markings and will cut across all lanes if they suddenly want to turn into a side-road. Bus lanes are marked as an 'A lane' around Baku, abbreviated for Autobus lane, and some drivers seem to respect these. Some dual carriageways permit a U turn, but caution, the central reservation is often narrower than the length of a car. Many minor streets are narrow and littered with potholes, and blind corners are common.

 

 

 

 

Rural Roads.

Roads between towns and villages are sometimes very wide but typically devoid of markings. Some are riddled with potholes. Because traffic speeds vary significantly, overtaking is very common. Expect to see a lorry driver driving directly towards you and expecting that you will move over.

It is very common to see animals grazing on the road verges, and crossing the roads.

 

 

 

 

Night Driving.

Night driving is not recommended outside Baku. Even within the city many roads don't have street lighting, only a few main roads are lit. Potholes can be deep and impossible to see when the road is wet. Beware of animals crossing the road.

 

 

Parking.

Parking is not easy in Baku, on-street parking is normal on most roads but with the increase in motor vehicles, spaces are scarce. Because of this many drivers park at a junction making life difficult for pedestrians wishing to cross the road, and making observation difficult for other drivers. Other drivers often park a significant distance from the kerb.

 

 

 

 

Oddities.

Something to watch out for … The roads around the medieval parts of the old city are very narrow, mostly having a cobbled surface, and often there is not sufficient width for a car in each direction to pass each other. Other routes are not even sufficiently wide for a 4 wheeled motor vehicle. The footpaths in this area are either non-existent or sufficient only for pedestrians in single file, typically very uneven and riddled with obstacles, always expect pedestrians to step into the road in front of you.

 

©Keith Lane 2009