Tuesday, 11 March 2014
To Stop or Not.
When I moved back to Bodrum after a 12 year break, I vowed to rise above petty annoyances and niggles and enjoy the Turkish weather, food and folk without getting upset about behaviour I perceived to be illogical or antisocial. Twenty-six months later, I think I can say that I've kept my promise to myself by turning my back on anything that would have wound me up in the past. With one exception - the Bitez roundabout. It's been open for less than a year and I managed to avoid it for months but my daughter has just started a new job very close by and despite trying to ignore this confusing obstacle, I now have to negotiate it quite regularly. It's been several decades since I took my driving test, but I'm sure that the sign above still means "give way", so I am confused and unnerved when, as I slow down to join the roundabout, every other car whizzes on by, pipping their horns at me as I prepare to stop to let the cars on the roundabout pursue their right of way. I aways expect a mighty crash. So is the law different here? I went along to the Bodrum police station with the above photograph to find out. The officer on the door was a bit confused why I wanted to know if I hadn't had an accident but had a look at my photo and said that he thought the sign meant slow down and wait if another car is coming. I agreed and asked why I was the only driver doing so. He looked hard at me, raised his eyebrows slowly and slightly tipped his head to the right. I understood that anymore questions would be futile and anyhow I had just realised that I was at the wrong police station and I really needed to ask the traffic police. A weekend went by, during which time I found myself back on this roundabout just as the car, three in front of mine, smashed into another which should have stopped. From the way the "guilty" driver rushed ranting to the "innocent" driver, it's obvious that the word "give way" is ambiguous here. Yesterday I dropped in on the traffic police who were really friendly and helpful and confirmed that the law gives cars already circling roundabout the right of way. They also voiced frustration that there is nothing they can do, except pick up the pieces when someone is injured (they do not come out to an accident if there are no injuries) but suggested I write to the governor to ask for extra signs and a campaign to educate drivers. One of the civilians in the police station said that roundabouts hadn't been covered when he took driving lessons and as he was extremely young, I have to assume that goes for most of the driving population.
So if you've hired a car and are driving in Turkey for the first time, be aware that roundabouts need 100% concentration; be prepared for every eventuality and try and avoid everyone else. It's a bit like the inverse of the dodgems at the fair.