Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Brazilian drivers are crazy!

Brazilians, in general, are lovely people. I actually think that they might be about the friendliest people in the world. BUT, put them behind of the wheel of a motor vehicle and they think they're Airton Senna (famous Brazilian race car driver).

To put it another way, I actually think that Brazilians are inconsiderate drivers. They don't mind pushing other drivers off the road to overtake, and to me that's quite rude. 

This isn't to say they are bad drivers, they are actually very good at driving, just not good at considering other drivers or obeying road rules. 

Okay, we had a bad morning on the road. Let me explain. 

Brazilians overtake slower drivers whenever they can: double line or solid line on the right side? No problem. Crest of a hill or bend in the road? No problem.  Roadwork zone with speed limit at 40km/hr but slowest vehicle (which they want to overtake) travelling at 80km/hr? No problem. Police car slowing things up in one of the above problems areas? No problem, Brazilians will overtake police car in road zone on a bend too (and the police won't do a thing). The truck you want to overtake currently overtaking another truck? No problem, there's a generous road shoulder that can be utilised to pass both them (don't worry that technically this road has just one lane going each way). 

Here's the two events that happened today to us. 
Event #1: we were heading up a hill on a road with one lane travelling each way. Suddenly, over the top of the hill appeared 2 trucks coming towards us. (Remember, there are just two lanes, one going each way). There wasn't enough time! H slowed and got over into the road shoulder (hard and generous enough). Phew! But, then we couldn't re-enter the road immediately either, because the bus behind us (which had to have seen us forced off the road) was using the opportunity to overtake us in the right-hand lane. (driving is on the right hand side here). 
Of course, these drivers don't mind pushing others off the road, but, as ours is a rather top heavy vehicle, it's not a good feeling for us. 

Event #2: again as we approached the crest of a hill, but this time we were further away. This time we were faced with a truck overtaking a truck (again) and also a car using the hard shoulder to overtake them both. All three vehicles were headed towards us without enough room for this overtaking manoeuvre, excepting that H braked and made their moves all possible. 

All these actions are undertaken on potholed and damaged roads, by drivers who are frequently on mobile phones, talking or sending texts. I've seen a drunk man get onto a motorbike and ride off. I've also seen a young man in a company car stop to smoke some weed before continuing down the road. 

Amazingly, we don't see a lot of accidents. I put this down to people just expecting the unexpected. We are spending a lot of time on the road, and mostly what we've seen (time and again) is trucks on their side. 

Yesterday morning we met a truck driver when he arrived (about 6am) at the grain pickup point where we'd rested the night. He told us the route he did, from his home to there, twice a week. It was about 1000 kilometres each way. This means that he's doing about 4000kms each week in his truck. 

The roads are such that, with road conditions, traffic, towns and speed bumps (speed bumps are the only effective means that they use to control speed here, and they are painfully frequent), a 7-axle 2-trailer truck like his probably averages 50kms/hour. Which means he has about 80hours a week driving his truck. Plus loading and unloading times. 

Within 30 minutes of leaving this driver we met a truck stop (for fuel) manager who spoke English. I asked more questions and found out that only the 9-axle trucks are controlled with limited driving hours. Drivers like the one we met (7-axle) can indeed do the 80hours in a week and they aren't required to have regular breaks. No wonder they drive like crazy!

If they did control these trucks though, there would have to be twice as many trucks on the road, and there's already an incredible quantity of truck traffic on Brazilian roads.  

One more thing: a policeman did pull Hendrik over the other day: and told him that he must drive with both hands on the steering wheel!

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