As soon as we got out of the airport, two hire cars were waiting for us…one for Joe and I, the other for Danny and Sam. After the initial few seconds, when I remembered you only need to use one foot when driving an automatic, driving here seemed a breeze. Not much traffic, and tarmac!!! Not that unusual, unless of course you had spent the last few months in rural Uganda…
Anyway, that was my first experience of driving in Barbados. However, if I’m honest that was the high point. The longer I spend here, the more I realise that on the whole Bajans, as lovely as they are, simply cannot drive!!
Okay, where do I begin?! Let’s start with the positives (shouldn’t take long!). Well they drive on the same side as we do in England. And it’s such a small island, navigation is straightforward. If you’re ever unsure which direction to drive, all the bus stops tell you whether you’re heading ‘To City’ or ‘Out of City’, so you always know in which direction Bridgetown is.
Oh, and everyone’s so polite. At junctions, it’s a case of, “After you”, “No, after you!”, “No, really I insist, after you…”. However, as pleasant as this sounds, it actually causes more problems than it solves as it can get really confusing. Everyone lets everyone else out…this isn’t just extremely frustrating if you’re stuck behind the ‘letter outer’, it also leads to a situation where nobody moves, or two cars try to go at the same time. There’s no such issue back home – in the UK, if you have right-of-way, you damn well make the most of it!
The highways here are dual carriageways, although neither is a slow or fast lane. This is another source of annoyance, particularly when two cars are driving alongside each other at 40kph and the speed limit is 80, as you can’t overtake. The two lanes then go into three as you approach roundabouts, but beware. As you pull off a roundabout, you often have to brake sharply as there are pedestrian crossings about five metres down the road. This can also lead to cars tailing back round the roundabout, preventing others from being able to pull out.
Drivers like to use hand signals out of their window if they are turning or slowing down. They seem to forget that their brake lights and indicators give clues as to their intentions. Having said that, I’ve lost count of the number of times an indicator has suggested a car would be turning right only to see the opposite happen!
And cars just stop anywhere!! There is absolutely no thought given to other road users…you can be driving behind a car and it will just stop, often without even pulling into the side of the road. Today a car simply stopped in the middle lane so a passenger could get out. Incredible!
If the driving wasn’t equally as bad during the day, I would say it was because at night the drivers are drunk. Which is actually often the case…there appears to be no problem with people drinking and driving over here. Indeed the four of us from Arsenal went out for an amazing meal with our two ‘bosses’ from the organisation with whom we’re working, and we ordered soft drinks. The dumbfounded waiter took our orders but made it very clear that we could drink as much alcohol as we wanted in Barbados and driving wouldn’t be an issue. I said that it’s not due to a fear of getting caught that I don’t drink and drive, for me it’s more of a safety thing!
In the event of an accident, everything stops for an eternity. This is because a policeman has to make a sketch of the scene…why no-one has thought to give them cameras is beyond me!