Traffic – The Monster of Dar es Salaam

May 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

I think this is supposed to be a roundabout.

Traffic in Dar es Salaam is unlike any I’ve ever seen. The insanity of it puts any bad traffic contenders in the US to shame – Los Angeles ain’t got nothin’ on Dar es Salaam. Pedestrians, bicycles, motorbikes, buses, cars and semi trucks are all jammed together in a tight one or two lane space. Traffic is so bad, it can take 3-4 hours to clear the very short section of road – maybe half a mile – that it takes to get out of Dar es Salaam.There is only one major highway to get around all of Tanzania. It has one lane going in each direction.

The rules of the road seem to be:

  1. Don’t crash.
  2. Don’t crush the pedestrians weaving through the cars on the tightly packed roads.
  3. Watch out for cops.

Pretty simple.

Pollution is common and pretty bad since most of the cars and trucks here are old.

Is this a picture of a guy just riding down the highway on top of a van? Yuppers, it sure is! This is a type of security position. His job is to ride up top and make sure nobody tries to steal stuff out of the back.

Like way old. Emissions testing is decidedly not a thing here. Often there will be vans or trucks driving down the road spewing a steady cloud of thick, black, acrid smoke that reeks of chemicals burning. This is true even of the public buses, daladalas. Vehicles here are pushed way past their natural limitations. The creativity employed to keep them running is impressive.

Drivers use flashing lights, signals and hand gestures to communicate. If you’re behind someone, the right blinker means “not safe to pass – car coming;” the left blinker means “okay to pass.” Flashing your lights at someone is a way of asking if there are cops up ahead. The responding car flashes back and either points down with four fingers, meaning “yes, cops ahead” or makes a “come here” gesture signaling that it’s safe.

Bus drivers are the craziest. They race each other from city to city, flying down the road, making dangerous passes and turns. There’s about one deadly bus accident per month. Those that can afford not to won’t ride those buses.

Tanzania. Drive at your own risk!

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