By Lucia Holliday Buie
When I am carrying my groceries on my back and by my side and feeling sorry for myself, I remind myself that plenty of others here are also trundling their grocery sacks. Factoid to consider: for every 1,000 Americans, there are 473 cars. For every 1,000 Turks, there are 133 cars. So, walking, utilizing the excellent public transportation system, and pooling money to hire a service bus is common practice here.
Turks are not careful drivers. We've seen several (thankfully, small) accidents since we've arrived. Stoplights are regularly ignored. Drivers follow too closely, and routinely slam on breaks with about an inch remaining between vehicles. U-turn regulations? Forgetaboutit. Both Jim and I have been in vehicles that lurched out of a parking lot and drove the wrong way down a one-way street for a block or two until they happen to find an opening in the median. I have made Jim vow we will never, ever drive a car in Turkey. We've asked the Turks about this, they laugh and say they are better drivers than the Italians and the Greeks. Probably true.
We have to be extra careful crossing streets. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way like they do in the states. Jim was crossing a small street downtown when a truck driver sideswiped his backpack.
- Traffic Fatalities We Could Do Without: (Hurriyet Daily News) "To be sure, traffic safety per kilometer traveled has improved in Turkey over the last 20 years. Expansion of divided highways, electronic surveillance systems and improved compliance with seat belt regulations have all played a part. But Turkey remains at the bottom of the list of the 24 “developed” countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD. The United States and most of Europe all have rates of fewer than 10 traffic deaths per billion kilometers driven. Turkey has 73 deaths for the same amount of a driver’s time behind the wheel. The next closest is the Slovak Republic with a traffic fatality rate of 46.9."