Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another Hazardous School Run

I hadn't intended this to become a mini series, but this is "Albanian School Run- The Sequel" And sadly no Jason Bourne to the rescue.

I was driving down the very wide Boulevard away from Mother Theresa Square. This road is paved with bricks & is 3 lanes wide each way (no lane markings again so some drivers make it 4). the lights were green 50 metres ahead, the filter left lane was on green too, so I was driving at perhaps 30 miles an hour, certainly no more. The light had changed to green it wasn't about to go red so I kept going. I knew it was a long light. There was no side road to my right to watch out for either. Usually a hazard.

Suddenly, out of nowhere a middle aged woman came running across from my left straight in front of my car (we drive on the right remember) This is a very wide road, so how she had crossed 4 lanes of cars by the time she got to me AND was still going, still alive & still running I don't know. Normally Albanians stop, & weave in & out. It makes them easier to avoid. This woman just kept running. I didn't have time to think, I certainly hadn't seen her & I was going too fast to avoid her.

I slammed on the brakes & swerved to her left skidding as I went, with no time to check if there was a car to my left (fortunately they were all turning left & anyway there was no one. I automatically swerved out of the way, missing her by inches.)

She hadn't even been looking, as few pedestrians do, she was just dashing across a green light on a very fast busy road at the last minute. If I had hit her I am sure I would have killed her, or if not, given her a fractured pelvis, 2 broken legs, ruptured spleen & possily a broken arm too. We drive a very old 4x4. It is heavy & built like a tank. We bought it a.) because it was cheap & b.) because we felt we had the best chance of surviving an accident better in something like that. An important consideration in this country of the abandoned highway code.

She wd either have been tossed in the air or gone under the front of our car. I was in a complete state for the rest of the journey, my heart pounding and needed another, even stronger coffee to calm me down. (This is why most families use a driver for the school run. We do too, but 2 days a wk I teach so take them myself. So far every journey has been eventful.)

All I want is to have time for a leisurely "So what special have you got today?" or "Hope your speech goes well." I could happily do without masked machine gun toting convoys, mad menopausal women with a death wish & crazy traffic of a Tuesday morning. Is that so much to ask?

I have never come that close before, there was absolutely nothing I could do, yet if I had killed her I would have had to live with that for the rest of my life. I couldn't stop thinking about that. My husband, ever philospohical & coldly rational, said, "Not at all. She would have committed suicide. Anyone crossing a road like that must have a death wish".

What worried me was the fact that if that had happened, you would be put in prison for your own protection, (from the grieving family) & then you would have to pay the woman's family as 'compensation' for her death. And hope that was sufficient for them. There is still this archaic system in place where as a means of financial vigilante justice you give a money offering as compensation. This would typically be 1000s of dollars. It doesn't only relate to how bad the injuries were or whether there was a death, it is rarely realistic in terms of what the person might be able to afford. Conversely, if you are deemed rich, then the amount goes up exponentially. Thus, as a foreigner you would pay tens of thousands potentially, certainly a lot more. So actually this shows it's not about compensation or justice, it's about how much you can get out of someone. It also shows a complete lack of faith in the justice & legal system here (justifiably so, especially as a poor person who can't bribe to get the 'right' verdict)

You can't get personal liability insurance in Albania. I was driving my own vehicle on a private journey so my husband's NGO wdn't cover it. This very scenario happened to one of my husband's work drivers. I wrote about it here.

This is what doubly freaked me out that I could hit (& possibly kill) someone through no fault of my own, but be liable for 1000s of dollars or even go to prison. With only a 5 yr old & a 9 yr old in the car as witnesses, & therefore being reliant on Albanian witnesses in the street, who could easily be bought off, it's a concerning scenario. Everyone has their price here.

Sometimes I fear Albania will finish me off......

7 comments:

nappy valley girl said...

Blimey -poor you. That sounds terrifying. Puts my pathetic worries about backing into another Mummy's SUV on the school run to shame......

Mwa said...

What a frightening situation to be in. Normal roads are scary enough, but with that kind of situation to contend with, the stress must be out of this world.

Expat mum said...

Goodness. Over here (at least in Chicago) pedestrians walking out into the road without looking is the norm. They seem to think they have a right no matter what colour the light, and they know they can sue you into homelessness if you hit them. But I've never seen anyone actually running into the traffic like that. Perhaps she was suicidal?

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

THat is really scary. I remember your earlier post, and find myself thinking about it quite a lot here. I just hope that you never find yourself in that situation again.

A bit of a non Jason Bourne moment would be infinitely preferable.

PS - maybe she'd been at a 'happy machine' earlier? This is the Balkans after all...

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

NVG Oh no, I'd still worry about that, the wrath of an SUV Mommy wd be very scary...
MWA I do find driving here incredibly stressful. It's pure fear with an unhealthy dose of road rage (which I understand for myself all too well now), with the idiotic/dangerous behaviour you get here. Actually sometimes I laugh it's so unbelievable (but in that slightly manic, "this isn't at all funny" way)
ExpatMum. Yup pedestrians here act like they own the rd. "What are you going to do about it?" the prevalent attitude. When you're talking about a fast moving ton of metal, seems a crazy game of chicken. And NO ONE looks to cross the rd, they just launch out.
Brit: I did have an uneventful (by ALbanian standards drive to schl today) Hurray. I even managed a nice conversation with my daughter. "Mummy, how long ago was the earth made? When the Princes & Princesses were still out & about?"

Iota said...

Poor you. I do remember that previous post of yours, and being horrified by it at the time.

"...stronger coffee to calm me down..." Are you sure that's what coffee is meant to do?

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