Graph of the day

Rojo rojito!
Rojo rojito!

Accompanying article here. The money quote

It turns out that the profusion of oil wealth might actually make the roads more dangerous due to something political scientists call the rentier state effect. Individuals in such countries, who often live off lavish subsidies, may be more accustomed to seeing the government as something that gives out money, not as a regulatory and policing body. The governments, which draw their legitimacy and power from oil rather than from people, have less incentive to implement harsher driving rules, which might prove unpopular. And it can give citizens a sense that the law serves them, rather than the other way around.

Me thinks there is another common thread in all these countries. When lunatics drive your country, then lunatics drive on the road. [HT: José Ramón]

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  1. Look at all those poor Western European countries that have low traffic death rates, the revolution should heed the call of these peoples oppressed by capitalist road laws and start exporting our own traffic deaths. Germany, don’t despair, 21st socialism is coming to rescue you!

    • Going with the accuracy of that, the correction would read that Bogota is the capital of Columbia…….

  2. I remember every time there was a threat to increase the price of gasoline- ridiculously cheap as I remember- there were always threats of transportation and other unions’ striking and the government would back down.

  3. Bill, I wrote about those stats last December (“Venezuelans killing themselves on the road”) and they are based, I think, on WHO data from 2008. I think things haven’t improved, but Venezuela was probably already among the worst back in 1988 when it comes to lethal car accidents.
    Most Venezuelans have always driven like autistic people who on top of being autistic had drunk.

    Of course, things are much worse, but road accidents were particularly prominent already before Chavez, unlike other things like the murder rate.

    It would be nice if we had road death data from those times as well,like we have with the murder rate.

    I must say I haven’t got a clue why Thailand scores so badly compared to its neighbouring countries. Any idea out there?

        • Kepler : Same as you I suspect that the stats from the 80’s and 90’s were pretty awful even then !! Maybe something cultural like the national habit of week end drinking and lax law enforcement . Had a physician relative who attended traffic victims in a public hospital who told me the death toll was specially awful for motorcylists during holydays and weekends ,involving both drugs and drinking . Now my relative works in an European country and finds the work very mild in that there are few traffic accidents , no knifing and no shooting victims !!

        • Sorry, I meant when compared to their neighbors (Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia), which we can assume have at least a more similar educational background and social code of conduct to Thais than Europeans.

          • Yes, I understood it. But what I am saying is: shouldn’t that also happen in Europe as well? See: Belgium is much more densely populated than France or Spain and it has a higher living standard than Spain and slightly higher than France’s and yet road security is similar to that of France and better than that of Spain.

            What I really would like to see is how Venezuela compared to in South America 20, 30 years ago with that.

            As for murder rate: we had a a much lower murder rate in 1998 than Colombia or Brazil. Now our murder rate is over twice as that of Colombia (second worst in South America).

            In the nineties Venezuela had a high inflation (a couple of years much higher than now) but it was below average for middle-size to large countries in Latin America.

            So: I am just curious to know if the road situation is just worse or ‘Chavismo-worse’.
            These are orders of magnitudes that only Venezuelan political junkies can deal with.

    • I have no idea why Thai drivers are bad, but on the subject of autism, it recently came to my attention that the singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart is both Venezuelan, and autistic.

    • From my travels through there many years ago…

      Lots of drinking.

      The typical high-population-density-Asian-thing regarding a complete disregard for personal space comes into play with regards to cars. Think Caracas Metro with each passenger wrapped in 1000 kg of steel.

      Many, many more scooters, motorcylces and tuktuks. Compound that with many large delivery vehicles (cargo trucks, buses)

      Once off the main roads, everything else is dirt. When it rains, they are underwater. As a result, muddy tracks make driving anywhere hazardous.

      The geography of the country requires lots of driving if going by land from one point to the other.

      The police attitude towards enforcing what traffic laws exist seem to vacillate between “meh” and complete indifference at times.

      Combine all those, and you end up with a lot of accidents. Those involving the little cars/bikes and trucks almost always end up in a losing scenario for the smaller motorist. That and the infrastructure to deal with accidents is lacking…ambulances show up, but almost casually, usually because the distance to a hospital, delay in calling it in, etc., is pretty substantial.

      As I recall, they were just rolling out a “nationwide” emergency services number when I was there nearly 20 years ago, 199, or 191, I don’t recall which…but that was just for the police. Apparently they have 8-9 different emergency numbers that each go to something different; even one just for tourists. So you call the police, who show up 10-15 minutes later, and then they call an ambulance, which tends not to do the injured a lot of good. This is a bit different from the unified systems used in most countries where a dispatcher takes the call and depending on the information received, sends the services needed. As a guy who worked as a paramedic through his undergrad, I can’t even begin to conceive having someone critically injured and having the police arrive, but unable to do anything until they summon an ambulance. I’m sure there is a contributory effect to fataities from this.

    • From my observations while in Thailand, I think it is a mix of:

      -Higher number of medium/large sized vehicles than in neighbouring countries, driving among a similar sea of small vehicles (scooters, tuk-tuks, etc). I’d say this is due to Thailand being more developed than its neighbours, which makes car/truck ownership more widespread.

      -Much like in Venezuela, lax attitudes towards DUI (except on “Semana Santa”-like periods such as Songkran, mostly for show)

      -Richer Thais are practically untouchable, I’d dare say more so than their Venezuelan counterparts. A member of the tight oligarchy (the term DOES apply to them) can pretty much do whatever he/she wants and never fear punishment. Thais in the lower socio-economic rungs seem to take this as “they way things are”, in a more docile way than the same people would do in Venezuela (Stronger class system stemming from the monarchy? Passivity stemming from Buddhist concepts such as reincarnation and karma? This is an interesting topic by itself…it has kept me wondering for years.

      Slightly off topic but to be fair to Thais, the country is in a MUCH MUCH better place than Venezuela at the moment in terms of quality of life and development. Infrastructure is continuously improving, you can walk pretty much any street at any time and the most you’d have to worry about would be being pick-pocketed, shortages of pretty much anything are unheard of, unemployment is (somewhat strangely) close to 0%…

      Makes you wonder!

  4. Jeez. That’s why I don´t like visiting my own homecountry. I feel death is just rubbing her hands waiting for me around the corner. Between crime and crumbling infraestructure you stand no chance.

    I find that people abroad think of Venezuela as just another poor Latin American country, but the truth is we are definitely in another (lower league) compared to Peru, Colombia and Ecuador; not to mention Uruguay, Chile and Argentina.

  5. “…in any given year, a Dominican person has a one in 2,398 chance of being killed by a car.”

    Poor Papo never had a chance 🙁

  6. “And it can give citizens a sense that the law serves them, rather than the other way around.”

    Contrary to the author, I actually think this is the appropriate sense for citizens to have. We are, after all, the creators of those laws.

    The issue is simply one of education and enforcement. It would not take a genius government to make roads safer in Venezuela, oil notwithstanding. Or communities. Or workplaces…et cetera. It would however take some political will. It is interesting to speculate from this map that oil creates lawlessness on the roads, but I doubt that is the central issue.

  7. I wonder about Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, etc). Its the only bigger oil exporting country whose record in the map is pretty good, but the german consul warns tourists against the driving habits of the country. Maybe it got better recently? Our consul also warns against speed controls. Hm.
    I’ve annoyed many chileans with my complains about the lack of defensive driving attitude, but thats controversial as they think that I drive worse than the average chileans.

  8. Venezuela’s success formula in road safety:
    1. Drive around old and damaged gas guzzlers (because of cheap fuel)
    2. Parts are hard to get because the are no dollars
    3. Damaged roads full of pot holes and other hazards
    4. Feel free to drink and drive
    Result: Half drunk drivers driving old dangerously half repaired/maintained cars on shitty roads

      • I remembered being stared at when I refused to go along with the bribe. People at the DMV didn’t know what to do me. After 20 minutes of arguments they made me turn the engine on and gave me a pass. In fact, it might be possible to take the exam while you are drunk. But don’t blame this on Chavez, blame it on ourselves.

        • This is what I heard from a relative of mine and this was before Chávez.
          She went to the theoretical exam. She got the test, she went to the first question and then she heard the “tester”: 1 c, 2 b, 3 d, 4 d, 5…”
          -Disculpe, disculpe, qué está diciendo Usted?
          She couldn’t believe it. He looked at her as if she were an idiot.
          – Mi amor, lamentablemente no tengo tiempo, así que les estoy dando algunas respuestas para que terminemos esto rápido”.

          Many years ago, when in Venezuela, I wanted to get my driving license. I called a “driving school”.
          “Buenos días…quisiera saber cómo son sus cursos, lo que cuestan, la duración de las cl”
          “Mira, aquí te sacamos la licencia en X días (forgot how many). Si lo que quieres es la licencia para manejar carros, te sale en…”
          I got their number from the yellow pages. Imagine that! They were supposed to be a school.
          I didn’t do it. I took my driving license when I came to Europe.

          Once a German went to Venezuela with his girlfriend, a Venezuelan friend of mine. The guy was driving according to the rules and a couple of guys in Caracas started to shout at him: “mira, huevón, aprende a manejar. Dónde sacaste esa licencia? En una caja de Ace?”

          • When I went there, I went to the theoretical exam, after you passed it you had to takethe practical test. When it was my turn, the instructor was already “tired” so he just made people drive around the block by themselves while he sat at the front door of the office. After you drove around he just passed everyone. And we were getting our license in the “legal way” not through gestores and even though they were no controls over making sure that people actually knew how to drive,

          • Mine was horrible! I take the test…The guy was given only answers to one 14 year kid , with the chauffeur waiting… Then the guy told us come in a month! Now the sad part… For some family, someone went to the guy and said : look fulanito she is the niece of X” They guy started talking to me like your aunt this, and that, she is fabolous ( I was 18, and confused) He signed my test … then sended me to the practice one.I drove there! The guy gave me the paperwork, made me fill out my name ( he was supposed to do it) and told me “Tell me something dear, Do you know How to drive? ” me ( perplexed) : Yes? The guy: Gob Bless you child!!! Take care! ( Dime una cosa miamor, tu sabes manejar? ok Que dios te bendiga, y te proteja, y saludos a tu tía, she is so great and this and that , she was a prosecutor, I think that was the key word)…. I spent a week so depressed. In a way I was just doing things the legal way, but by name they just do all this things, I could not believe !

          • Curiously, today I almost got hit by car that was passing a red light. When I complained, the guy (who was in his fifties) gave me the finger several times. I almost lost it to anger and I wanted to give him a lead salad. 15 years in Yare would have been totally worth it. Then, I calmed down, remembered this post, and read this. I cant believe your tale about the theorical test and at the same time it doesn’t surprise me one bit. Its ridiculous.

          • You live in Venezuela? Dear, Green light for you is stop, because someone will pass the red light… Let me tell you my first 2 years out of Venezuela driving, my friends were always yelling: “Why you stop at green lights!!!!” it was a reflex!!! I have to pay attention, because I am too conditioned to stop at the green light for those wonderful people!!!

          • Yes I do, but I have been sistematically trying to follow the law the best way I can and send as many people to the famous carajo as I can in the process. I just cant take it anymore. One day I feel I will have my “Falling down” wake up and trash this city into chaos.

          • I know I can’t drive in Venezuela.
            I got my driving license in Belgium, the theoretical exam is done in front of a computer and the practical one takes at least 20 to 30 minutes with the tester next to you going through several crowded streets next to the centre, several tram tracks and parking in a difficult position.

            I once went back to Venezuela and I was with a friend, she was driving and I asked her, while we were entering a roundabout, if the right of way was the same, I had forgotten that…and while I was asking her that, she had to dodge a car that got into the roundabout in the wrong way!

            Another factor in all this: psychopaths. I wonder if, as Francisco Herrera Luque said, we have a higher percentage of them.

          • A side note: I took in The US my driving test, and my exam…I passed it at first ( even the motorcycle one, that is hell, but I got my license too!!! don’t use it much)…The only remaining thing is that sometimes I stop briefly in the green light 20+ years of habit , difficult…However, in LAX, is like driving Venezuelan Style, people are assholes there! 4 years in heaven…being courteous, and now traffic hell again!

          • Kepler right of way? in ven? LOL let me tell you that i learned that is the US, However,depending on the city people will care or not ( the clockwise etc… in LAX is like Caracas!

  9. “But of course”, replied a vaguely surprised Ministerio de Poder Popular para Transporte, “Ever since the Galactic President Superstar McSupreme Commander took back the oil companies from the clutches of the northern empire, oil has become un bien soberano available to all! This means people are saving more money, buying more cars and therefore driving more, which in turn, means more accidents! All part of the glorious path towards victory and independence.” said the Ministry fondly, while slouching away and humming off-key notes of Patria Querida.

  10. All of the above. In summary:

    1. Roads in bad conditions: sink holes, no signs, no paint of diving lanes, no defence railings (stolen for resale), bad design and planning.
    2. Low standards for granting driver licences. No education, no learner’s, no check up points, no consequences in liabilities.
    3. Zero enforcement of the laws. Lots of bribes, laissez-faire are the rule.
    4. No DUI controls and enforcement, road checks, etc.
    5. Vehicles in bad shape due to lack of parts.

    Did I miss anything?

  11. “…have less incentive to implement harsher driving rules, which might prove unpopular. ”

    Of course they might prove unpopular. There are absolutely NO rules for driving (and many other activities) in Venezuela. Not in the sense that it’s something that can apply to everyone.

    Oh, there are some guys that are supposed to enforce some ridiculously strict (at least according to them) “laws” that are in some books that somebody might have read once. And some people are supposed to test / regulate / issue appropriate papers.

    In reality, you pay them discreetly and they’ll let you go / issue the necessary documents. You don’t need to have a license, you can go around in a stolen car. You need dosh.

    What would be the going rate for vehicular homicide, I wonder?

  12. On the positive side, Venezuela must have the lowest rate of gasoline theft from vehicles in the World. And you thought Chavistas were not fighting crime!

    Venezuelan drivers have no respect or etiquette for other drivers. Cutting off other drivers is the norm. Stopping at red lights will get you killed.

  13. How much of Venezuela’s traffic death rate has to do with the fact that people just drive around so much more than in other countries? Venezuelan roads are terrible but so are Honduran roads, Ecuadorean roads, Peruvian roads…Well, you get the picture. However, with gas at $0.08 a gallon people probably drive way more miles a year than they would in a country with $5 a gallon gas.

    • It is hard to see how a government wholly incapable of fulfilling the most minimal obligations of a state, like enforcing stop signals, is going to carry out a major social transformation. Or a ‘revolution’. And sure enough, after 14 years, it hasn’t managed to do either: the big or the small.

    • “How may of these deaths were motos?”

      Do you mean the motorcycles? The “motorizados” who have taken over the highways and circulate between the fast lane and the slow lane? The motorizados who break your rear view mirror, kick your car door in and curse you for trying to change lanes? The motorizados who perform “highway funerals”, a kind of rodeo with motorcycles, wheelies and occasional shots in the air blocking the traffic and intimidating other motorists? The ones, that God help you if you have some incident with them, unless you happen to have an automatic weapon on you, several clips and no scruples in using all of them for lethal effect?

      Ok, there were some rules enforced before Chavez came to power. Namely, motorizados were not allowed to do any of that. Now that some of them are the Defenders of the Revolution or something like that…

      The kind of “education” they should be given…

      • As a motorcycle driver in another country…Let me tell you that people could be as stupid as motorizados in CCs. You should be in the same lane as a Car. you have no idea How many times I have had to call the police because I stupid person block my scooter, because they thought it was a parking space ( and the worst part, in a place where only graduate students live, and post doc, so highly educated–>common sense zero)

  14. There are two kinds of trafic related accidents which probably dont happen elsewhere, one in venezuela its become common for criminals to throw rocks on top of passing vehicles from any convenient overpass , the car crashes and they rob the injured and dead people in the cars . A cousin of mine got killed this way , there was also a report of a young army officer returning from a wedding in Valencia together with 4 other people being the only surviving victim of this kind of attack . There are also accidents related to the now wide spread custom of building towns which use main roads as their main street so that fast traffic encounters children , drunkards etc suddenly appearing in the middle of the road . Knew about a young man getting killed together with a cousin when driving in the carretera de los llanos when a drunk suddenly lurched accross the roadway forcing him to swivel aside to avoid hitting the drunk and instead running straight into a coming truck. These are recent kinds of road accidents that to my knowledge didnt happen 10 years ago !!

  15. There is a passage in one of Isabel Allendes books where she describes her experience of driving in the chaotic trafic of Caracas ( she lived in Ccs as an exile several years after flying from Pinochets Chile) , She says there were unwritten rules which mandated who would pass first and who would hold back and that she never mastered them so that she had serveral accidents in a row , She coulnt understand how people unconsciously ‘knew’ who could move forward and who had to stay back. This learning had become instinctive to ccs native drivers , not something you could read in a rules book . She was never able to learn it !!


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