Creative and adventurous are always key traits I could use to describe myself. But you know what, one thing I have decided not to venture on during my stay here in Norway is driving. This one, I have made a decision to go slow on it. When my friends and I do long drives , they will occasionally ask, “ do you want to drive?”
“My assignment in Norway is not halfway yet and am sure you do not want to see me deported”, I reply. Unless you are very familiar with the roads for probably a year or so, for me I guess taking a bus to my destination will be the best thing to do.
No potholes, so good roads to take a ride around, clearly marked, clearly placed road signs so you are sure not to make silly road mistakes like Kenyans will do during rush hour. When my Ghananian friend, made a rush U-turn I looked at him and wondered what was wrong with him and he said,
“What I have just done is an offense that could make me lose my driving licence for one year or even get me jailed.” Strict traffic rules are adhered by all voluntarily. You violate the rules at your own risk.
Driving in Norway is different from my country in many ways. In Kenya, at a driving school, you will go for theoretical lessons and practical sessions that in most cases will be 30 hours, 15 hours of theory and 15 hours of practical experience. The theoretical lessons will include the instructor showing you how to drive some little cars on a traffic board. I found this really crazy and it’s more interesting when you a get an instructor who tells you to make sounds as you drive those little cars like say Pi! Pi! Pi! Pi! as you overtake!
Theory lessons here are done electronically on a computer software so you don’t get those little dummy cars on a traffic board. Then, there’s the practical lesson, learners taught at designated area. I am told you do not need to go for the full driving classes if you have someone who can teach you how to drive. Because most families have a car or two, it is easy to find very young kids with driving experience, though the minimum driving age in Norway is 17 years. In such a case, all you need to do, is register for the compulsory courses.
The roads are of high standard and they are well maintained, they also include international road signs that make it simple to get around. Norwegian roads contain many roundabouts and it is advisable to know the procedure before you come to one. In a roundabout a car coming from your left has preference and must be allowed to go through first. It is recommended that all vehicles are equipped with warning triangle, first aid kit and fire extinguisher. If you are not used to driving in areas where ice and snow covers the road during a major portion of the winter, then you should exercise extreme caution while driving in Norway in the colder part of the year. If driving in the mountains in winter, you should bring a minimum of survival equipment (shovel, warm clothes, food, flashlight).
My driving license expires when am dead!
My Norwegian friend once told me, “ I am 35 years now, my driving license expires in 2100, you can be assured I don’t want to live till that age even if I was given a chance to” I went blank as I tried to understand this sentence. Then he explained, “Getting a Norwegian driving license in most cases it is even more expensive than buying a car.”
If you have to go through the entire driver´s education courses, this will cost you +/- 30,000 NOK ,(Approximately Ksh. 400,000). At the end of this process, you are then granted a license which expires on it´s 100th birthday. Most important, remember to turn your license in before the year is up. If you don´t, you will need to take driver´s course all over again. This is truly an expensive pay back as a way of learning a lesson!
Too many Tunnels.
One thing that really makes driving scary for any foreigner before getting used to this system are the many road tunnels. There are tunnels all over. Norway has the Worlds longest road tunnel (Lærdal Tunnel) that was constructed in 1992. The 24.5km-long stretch of tunnel stretches between Aurland and Laerdal on the new main highway connecting Oslo and Bergen. This was done as a way of improving reliability in road transport due to the mountainous area and narrow roads combined with many fjord (narrow section of sea between high rocks) crossings.
Too many do’s and dont’s
It is very important to know the basic rules before you set your hands on that steering wheel.
• Norwegians drive on the right and overtake on the left. While driving in Norway headlights must remain on at all times.( All times, very key)
• All passengers must wear seat belts at all times, children under the age of 4 at all times should be placed on the baby wagon that should be fitted well before you drive.
• Never drink and drive. There is zero tolerance of alcohol and driving. The legal limit is 0.2 grams alcohol per litre blood. If you are caught above this, your driving license will be suspended, get a hefty fine and most likely end up in jail.
• Traffic fines for speeding are quite hefty, so you need to be aware of your speed limit. Some roads are narrow and curvy, so adjust your speed limit accordingly. And it is important not to stop where you might be too late to be seen by the car coming behind you.
• It is important to note that, if you prefer to drive slower than the posted speed limits, please let other cars pass, slow down and signal with the right turning lights. I am told Norwegians are always complaining of tourists who drive at 40km/h in the middle of the road, never looking in their mirrors.
• U-turns and off- road driving is illegal.
There’s too much to engage myself with around, so you can be assured driving in Norway is the last thing I would want to venture into. “Remember, old cars are not welcome in Norway, they are best at the Museums. For Norwegians a car is a necessity, not a luxury and if you plan well you can buy one during sales. Just like we have sale offers and discounts on other items, so are cars.” said my pal John.