Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow by Starlight: A Driver's Nightmare

Over the last few weeks I have been getting home late and therefore driving through the city at night -- around midnight. During these night trips I've realized that driving about Moscow in the daylight and traveling by the light of the stars are two very different things.


On the one hand, I prefer the traffic situation at night: you can get from the center of the city to anywhere around the Outer Ring Road in about 20 minutes. You might have difficulty finding the house you're looking for (it's not unusual for the bulbs in the illuminated signs that mark house numbers to be broken) but overall it's much quicker.


On the other hand, there are fewer Russian-made cars on the street at this time: During the night hours the new luxury cars become kings of the road. I've noticed that the BMWs and the Volvos that once held sway have now been usurped by more expensive limousines like Lexuses, Jaguars and Jeep Grand Cherokees. It seems that the new generation of new Russians prefers to buy American-made cars rather than European models.


These modern powerful cars with their young aggressive drivers can cause real trouble: At night, when there are fewer cars on the streets and no traffic jams, these drivers want to make full use of their car's power and fly through the city like an F18 jet. They don't stop at red lights and they never give way to cars coming from the right. I have witnessed some terrible accidents involving such drivers.


You should look out for these cars because if you are involved in an accident with one, one way or another you will end up being the one at fault and the driver will use any means, legal or illegal, to make you pay for the repairs. And don't expect any help from either the traffic police or the regular police.


In fact, the traffic police are the second nightmare for night drivers. With fewer cars on the streets, police patrolling reaches very tedious proportions; those gallant officers stop every car that comes their way.


The "safest" car to be driving at such a time is an old Russian-made car. The most dangerous is a foreign-made car with tinted windows and antennas on the roof. If you are driving such a car, you will be stopped not only by the traffic police but also by the so-called municipal police (they use the same white-and-blue Ford Crown Victory cars, but they don't have the letters GAI on them, only figures). These guys will check your documents, your car documents, the trunk and finally the glove compartment.