Driving in Morocco


Driving in Morocco



Rule of the Road

Traffic in Morocco drives on the right side of the road, in common with other North African countries.



Statistics (year 2007 figures)


UK comparison

Annual fatalities



Registered motor vehicles

(plus a very large but unknown number of unregistered motorcycles)



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



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



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



Fatality quotient, (fatality rate x fatality risk)



Fatalities / 1,000 km road



Road length, km



Paved roads, %



Road density, (road length km / land area km2)



Vehicle density, (motor vehicles / km)



Population density, (population / km2)





Statistics Summary

Despite Morocco having a significantly lower population density, low vehicle density, and low motorisation rate compared with the UK, the fatality rate is significantly higher. However, official statistics show only 1% motorcycles, when in fact it is only large motorcycles over 500 cc that are registered. There is a very large number (possibly up to 3,000,000 ?) of small and medium sized motorcycles in general use, none of which are registered, so actual numbers of motorcycles are unknown. It may be reasonable to assume that many fatalities are related to the unregistered motorcycles.





Driving Environment

Morocco is an arid sub-tropical North African country, bordering the Atlantic Ocean with some Mediterranean coastline, but also bordering the Sahara Desert. The topography varies from plateaus and plains, to rolling hills, and includes the Atlas Mountains. Many of the roads follow those delineated by Napoleon, so are very straight and are typically tree-lined avenues running for long distances across the plains & plateaus.



Driver Behaviour

Most drivers in Morocco have little regard for road rules, and no apparent regard for each other. Many drivers appear to want only to be ahead of another, to overtake at all costs, even if they are going to turn off or park just a few metres after overtaking. Drivers appear to have very little tolerance of others and no patience whatsoever. Many drive very close to the sides and rear of others in all traffic situations. However, if holding back and maintaining your space it is not difficult to maintain good safety margins whilst travelling at the same speed as other traffic.






The vehicle stock whilst having a proportion of new vehicles, has a significant proportion of older cars including taxis, a large number of pedal cycles, a very large proportion of unregistered small motorcycles, and a significant number of horse drawn vehicles, donkey carts, and hand carts. In some cities there are a significant proportion of adapted 3-wheel motorcycles.





Speed Limits

Speed is measured in km/h. Signage is generally good and adequate, with ample speed limit signs.

Speed limits in towns varies, with 60, 50, 40, and 20 km/h limits well signed. Outside of towns the maximum limit is 100 km/h and marked by the ‘end of limit’ sign.

Generally many drivers exceed speed limits by a moderate amount, and to counter this there is growing use of speed radar by the police who gain significant revenue by stopping drivers even slightly over a limit.



Traffic Signals

At traffic signals, it is normal to have only a primary signal at the stop line, i.e. no secondary signal on the other side of the junction. It is also very common that no stop line is painted. However, regardless of the presence of a stop line, it is very common to observe drivers stopping at a red signal well after the line, where the driver can not see any traffic signal, either red or green. He then awaits the driver behind to sound the horn to know when to move on.

Several different sequences of lights are in use: Common is the short 3-part sequence: green > amber > red > green, i.e. with no amber after the red. At many junctions there is also a flashing green after the steady green: green > flashing-green > amber > red > green. Also used is a very unusual rapidly-alternate-flashing red > green > red > green, seen along all roads approaching the junction from every direction; it appears to mean give way. Some traffic signals incorporate the French system of having a smaller set of signals at a lower height to match the eye-height of a car driver.





Road signs

Almost all regulatory, prohibitory, obligatory, hazard, directional, and advice signs follow the ISO standard (European) system. However, the Stop sign is a standard red octagon but written in Arabic only. Most direction signs are written in Arabic and French, although a few signs e.g. road works are written in Arabic only. All signs with numbers, e.g. speed limits, distances, route numbers, parking time limits and fees, are written using European digits only, so all are easily readable.





Road markings

Both white and yellow are used for lane and centre lines. Dual carriageways generally feature yellow markings, whereas single carriageways generally feature white paint. A continuous line is typically a single line along a single carriageway having a single lane in each direction, whereas a double continuous line may be used along the centre of a road having 4 or more lanes. Alongside some roads there is a hard shoulder used by the abundant motorcycles and bicycles, marked by a broken boundary line.





Kerb markings

Many minor junctions and some other roads including along central reservations are painted with yellow kerbs, marking where parking is not permitted. Unfortunately enforcement of this rule is non-existent. Red and white is commonly painted adjacent to traffic signals and at roundabouts to signify no parking. At other places a myriad of different colour schemes are in use, all with no official meaning.






Roundabouts typically have no road markings whatsoever, although a few are painted. At a typical 4-way roundabout having a main road and 2 minor roads, typically the main road is signed with give way signs, and the minor road signed with stop signs. Although the rule in Morocco follows the international standard, i.e. the circulating traffic has priority, and approaching traffic must give way to circulating traffic from the left, there is often much confusion in Morocco. At some roundabouts the circulating traffic, although having the priority according to the adequately placed give way signs, gives way to the traffic going ahead on the main road, (i.e. the obsolete French system).






Some other junctions including crossroads appear to be completely unmarked by either signs or lines. Slow down, look everywhere, expect to stop.



Pedestrian Crossings

Zebra crossings are common in towns, but few drivers ever give way to pedestrians. Parking on a zebra crossing is common.



Railway Crossings

There are both controlled and uncontrolled railway crossings, some with half barriers, some with only signs. Always stop, look, and listen before crossing, although many sightlines are good.






There are several highway quality roads, but the carriageways are quite narrow. Each carriageway is sufficiently wide to accommodate a 2.5 metre heavy vehicle, but barely sufficient for one to overtake another without their mirrors touching. The hard shoulder also is very narrow and typically bounded by continuous Armco barrier. The shoulder is typically less than the width of a small car which creates frequent hazards as it is a very common occurrence to pass broken down elderly cars which are only half on the shoulder. The carriageway edge adjacent to the central reservation is commonly marked with a boundary line, but the margin beyond this has a surface which is very narrow, loose, and uneven. This makes overtaking any heavy vehicle quite dangerous, as there is no escape route to the side if the heavy vehicle should wander. Some highways have a toll imposed.





City Driving

Roads around the cities are typically multi-lane, in some places up to 4 lanes in each direction. However lane discipline is not a strong point of the typical Moroccan driver, and it is common to see several more cars abreast waiting at a traffic signal than there are lanes. In towns many major roads are divided by a narrow central reservation, but beware of a driver turning through this area having the front of his car obstructing one carriageway whilst the rear obstructs the other carriageway. Again, where there is a left turn from a major road, due to the incessant impatience it is common to see possibly 8 cars abreast attempting to make a simultaneous turn into a side road.





Rural Roads

Roads across the plains are typically straight Napoleonic style, commonly lined with an avenue of trees. The primary mountain roads are surprisingly well marked, especially for night travel. In most places the centre line is white retroreflective, and the roads are amply marked with retroreflective road studs, (cats-eyes) along both edges of the road, although typically only white retroreflectors are used for both edges. Armco barrier is used extensively, typically with white reflectors on both left and right sides, hazard posts also show white on both sides. Retroreflective sharp-deviation signs are used extensively to mark the bends. Secondary roads are not so well marked, having only either a centre line or edge lines, but typically have a shoulder of variable width beyond the tarmac surface.





Night Driving

Night driving is not recommended except within larger towns on main roads having good street lighting. Most cars have front and rear lights in working order, but there are many other causes for concern. Many trucks have all colours of lights on the front, including red. Most motorcycles and bicycles have no lights or reflectors whatsoever, and can be very difficult to see especially if one is simultaneously dazzled by oncoming traffic. In towns and villages the handcarts, donkey carts, and horse carriages, etc are devoid of lights.






On-street parking is considered normal, although in parts of the cities it is necessary to park only in marked bays. Off-street parking is not so common. Paid parking, both on-street and off-street, by means of a traffic warden collecting the fee is used in some locations, although a receipt is typically not issued.






Special caution. Watch out for cyclists and motorcyclists anywhere, but especially on main roads between villages. Because of cyclists, you may face the risk of a head-on crash with oncoming traffic as an oncoming car, bus, or truck driver suddenly swerves to avoid a cycle on his side of the road – you must be ready and able to leave the road to avoid the head-on crash. This risk of a head-on crash increases enormously at night.


©Keith Lane 2009