My husband has driven in Bishkek for over three years without a single accident – until yesterday. Looking at how locals drive, a lot of expats (at least those of us from the states) tend to wonder how we don’t see more car accidents. Because there is that 20% of local drivers who seem to have taken their driving test with a bumper car purloined from one of the soviet-era amusement parks. But probabilities aside, last night saw our first actual car accident.
It happened when we were on our way to dinner at Cyclone. We had turned off of Chuy onto Logvinenko, which is a one way street. The car in front of us was stopped waiting for another car to back out of a parking spot and, after we too had been waiting about five seconds we heard a crunch! and felt a little jolt.
For, lo and behold, someone illegally parked between in the few feet the crosswalk and the street, had suddenly started backing out – without seeing us at all. So yes, we were hit while stopped by a car backing out of a parking spot.
We jumped out; the driver of the other vehicle jumped out. Thankfully he was a rather amiable fellow and not a bear (despite his rather appalling driving habits). Instead of ensuing in the shouting match that usually follows Kyrgyzstan car crashes we shook hands, introduced ourselves, and called the insurance company. The driver was an older, genial-looking government worker of some rank high enough to justify his glossy black Toyota Land Cruiser and assurance of self exhibited in flaunting traffic laws right across the street from the seat of state (It later turned out he’s a member of parliament…I only hope his colleagues have more hindsight). Apparently he hadn’t seen us in his mirrors and didn’t have parking sensors? Anyway, after about 10 minutes of looking at the damage (a mere scratch and barely visible crack on our rear right door, a huge gash in his bumper hanging like a broken arm), the insurance agent arrived, looked at the damage, told the other driver how much he would have to pay, took his info, and told us to send the car the next day. We parked and went on to dinner; the other driver hopped back in his car and sped off…the wrong way down the one way followed by a very illegal left turn onto Chuy…
Lessons to take away:
- Get insurance (I would recommend the one we have). Not only does it cover accidents that you cause, it also eliminates the entire hassle of arguing with other drivers about who owes who so much, actually extracting compensation from the other driver, and finding a reliable mechanic. And at around $200 a year (that’s $17 a month) it’s really not going to make a dent in your budget.
- Don’t buy a Toyota. One would think that the much larger SUV (at 5,815 pounds) would have suffered less damage than out car (a mere 3,825 pounds), but an audi is like a bull and I bet he wished he had our insurance. Just because your car is bigger doesn’t mean it’s less impervious to damage. I’ll now feel much more secure driving around town.
- Don’t assume other drivers are actually aware of the cars around them, or actually look before backing up. This isn’t the first time this has happened – on Wednesday afternoon I was driving through our apartment parking lot when a car almost backed into me coming out of a parking space just as I was driving past. He didn’t stop until I honked – obviously wasn’t looking or using parking sensors. Not long ago in the Beta 2 parking lot a girl almost backed into our car three times in a row while maneuvering out of a bad parking spot. Because she too just drove straight backwards without looking. So look around you and always be alert – simply being a good driver won’t shield you from all accidents.
Alas, another saga to add to Driving in Bishkek.