Driving Tips for Latvia - How to do safely

Eastern European countries are known for being slack when it comes to driving skills, and Latvia is no different from the others.

Drivers often "forget" to follow the rules, and pedestrians may not be something that drivers consider should get the right of way.

If the transportation issues already seem like enough to make your head spin, then the winter weather will be another feature that makes getting around safely a challenge in Latvia.

It's Not Me, It's You

In Latvia, it may not be you that you have to worry about; it's maybe everyone else and their [lack of] driving skills that can cause problems.

In fact, Latvia's rate of automobile accidents, and especially fatal ones, tops the list out of all of Europe. In 2005, the numbers showed that 494 people lost their lives just from auto accidents, and that means the death rate of 22 per 100,000 people is comparable to countries like Mexico. For all types of collisions, you can expect around 4,500 every year.

Fast & Furious

It can seem like a scene out of The Fast & the Furious in the Latvian circuit. Traffic rules are used sparingly, so travel at high speeds and risky overtakings are done all too often.

Drivers may not always yield for pedestrians as they would in other countries, so as a traveller it is even more important to stop and look both ways before crossing the road.

Poor country roads are said to cause more accidents, and it has been those same roads that have been a concern for tourism boards of the country looking to bring more people over on holidays.

Winter and winter weather contributes to the collision report. With temperatures reaching lows of -25 degrees Celsius, there is bound to be snow, ice and fog to work through while driving (or while acting as a passenger in an automobile). Major roads will be plowed as necessary, but there are still going to be slick spots to worry about. Be wary of the time when driving in the winter months as daylight diminishes to as little as 6 hours.

Tips for Road Safety

As stated before, the chance for accidents on the road increases because other drivers may not be as careful. However, being alert and on your best driving behaviour while traveling through Latvia will help to keep your chances low.

If you're a pedestrian, be sure to cross at designated crossings and always make sure the cars are stopping before proceeding.

In winter, be careful as to not slip on or near roads (or at all!).

Never drive drunk (they'll be checking), and always use headlights to stay visible to others. The winter months can be especially dreary during the daytime hours.

Another great tip is to put off driving during snow storms if at all possible, but if the schedule demands it then drive slowly.

Follow proper safe driving rules, such as maintaining speeds within the limits, which are usually 50 km/hr in cities and 90 km/hr on highways.

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3 Comments

  • Marek P said

    i went there whit my family, Latvians are for us best known for 6 toes(just a joke), and slower drivers pull closer to outer road (even behind white line ) and continue same speed to let other overtake him. I dont recomend to try it.

  • Biasedblsht said

    First of all, Latvia is Northern, not Eastern Europe. This article is biased and exaggerated. Latvians drive quite well, respect pedestrians and are well aware of road condition (being repaired intensively now) and winter driving. The ones driving like crazy chimps are usually Russians with their BMWs.

  • Michael said

    I didn't notice a problem with drivers not respecting pedestrians but they do have VERY dangerous habits of overtaking on highways, and roundabouts can be a bit of a mess for example having two lanes but next to no road markings to follow.

    I was travelling with max allowed speed at highway but locals were passing me what seemed like every 30 seconds.
    Also, they force you to drive off the marked path on the side of the road ( in effect making a third "passing lane" in the middle of the road) by blinking the headlights and driving aggressively close to you.

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