Five differences of Russian traffic rules that foreigners do not know about
Total prohibition of alcohol at the wheel, non-standard speed limits and the inability to drive through a red light. What will surprise foreigners when obtaining rights in Russia
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From April 1, 2024, the rules for driving a car with foreign driver’s licenses are being seriously tightened in Russia. In fact, this can only be done by residents of foreign countries temporarily staying in Russia. Those who live in Russia permanently are given a year to obtain Russian rights. What can surprise Russian roads drivers who have learned to drive abroad.
Who will have to change their rights
According to the law, which was signed by the President of Russia on July 10, and adopted by the Federal Assembly before that, all Russian citizens, as well as persons with a residence permit in the country, are required to drive vehicles only if they have a Russian driver’s license. You can use foreign rights, but only within a year after obtaining Russian citizenship, a residence permit or the first entry into the country from abroad when obtaining a driver’s license in another country.
At the same time, the procedure for obtaining a driver’s license by those citizens who already have driver’s licenses from other countries will differ little from the one provided for the initial obtaining of rights.
So, drivers of categories M, A, B and subcategories A1 and B1 will have to take a theoretical exam in the traffic police. The only relief for them will be the absence of a requirement to study at a driving school. Instead of a certificate from a driving school, they will be able to present a foreign driver’s license.
Truck drivers with Category C and CE rights, as well as C1 and C1E, will have a harder time. The new law obliges them to retrain in a Russian driving school, and after that pass not only the theoretical, but also the practical part of the exam in the traffic police, that is, in fact, get a license from scratch.
But it will be even more difficult for bus drivers to get a license. These are categories D and DE, as well as D1 and D1E. They will not just need to retrain, but they will also need to earn one year of experience with a Russian driver’s license of any other category.
There are exceptions, and they apply to three categories of drivers:
- the holders of Belarusian driver’s licenses will not have to change their rights, regardless of the citizenship of their holders. These documents will remain valid on the territory of the Russian Federation;
Photo: Konstantin Kokoshkin/Global Look Press
- the second exception is made for military personnel. The requirement of one year’s experience to obtain a bus license category does not apply to them;
- also Russian driver’s licenses automatically, that is, without passing exams, will be obtained by foreign diplomats, their family members and employees of international organizations accredited with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The exchange of foreign rights is being consistently tightened
Over the past decades, there has been a tendency in Russia to systematically tighten the rules for obtaining driver’s licenses in exchange for foreign ones. The new law once again tightens this procedure.
The interlocutor Autonews.ru Maria received her first Russian driver’s license in 1994 in exchange for a similar document issued in Guinea without any additional exams and has since changed her Russian driver’s license more than once after the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Another interlocutor of the publication named Vladimir recalled an anecdotal case with his friend, who in the 90s managed to exchange a certificate of climbing the Great Wall of China in the traffic police for Russian rights.
This document looked like a plastic card with a photo, where the dates of birth and climbing the wall were indicated in numbers, as well as the name of the owner in Latin — everything else was indicated by hieroglyphs. As his name, a Russian citizen entered the international designation of a driver’s license in French, Permis de conduire. And for the Russian traffic police, it was enough to take the certificate of climbing the wall for a Chinese driver’s license.
What awaits drivers with foreign experience in Russia
Russia belongs to the countries that signed the Vienna Convention, adopted back in 1968, which sets international standards for traffic rules in the States that have ratified this agreement.
Photo: Konstantin Kokoshkin/Global Look Press
This means that the rules of the road in Russia are almost the same as those adopted in other countries of the Vienna Convention. However, this international document establishes only the framework within which national traffic regulations should fit, but does not regulate the nuances.
People who have been trained in foreign driving schools and received their rights there may encounter unexpected features of our rules in Russia. Here are the main ones.
Driving through a red light is prohibited
A red traffic light in all countries prohibits traffic, but in many states there is an exception. A right turn is allowed under a red light, provided that all cars and pedestrians moving on a green signal pass.
In Russia, as an experiment, such rules were also introduced at some Moscow intersections, but at the state level such an order of passage of intersections was never adopted. If you were taught otherwise, remember: in Russia, you can’t even go to the right at a red light, and even if you missed everyone.
For a long time, the rules for driving roundabouts in Russia and in most European countries differed radically. Almost all over the world, cars on the circle have priority. In Russia, the rule “interference on the right” was in effect, that is, those who were on the circle had to give way, not those who were entering it.
The rules have changed several times in recent years, most recently in March 2023. In short, the current edition of the traffic regulations obliges to focus on signs: if there is a sign at the entrance to the roundabout that you have the main road, then it is really the main one. And if the sign is to give way, then the main ones are those who are on the circle.
Photo: Moscow Agency
Total prohibition of driving under the influence
In many countries of the world there is a norm of alcohol in the blood, with which it is not forbidden to get behind the wheel. In most countries, it is minimal and corresponds to a maximum of a glass of wine or a mug of beer.
In Russia, driving after drinking alcohol is completely prohibited. In a short period, the law was particularly harsh and allowed drivers with the lowest blood alcohol content to be deprived of their driver’s licenses.
There is a well-known case of deprivation of the rights of a journalist from Slovakia, who in 2012 came to St. Petersburg for the international presentation of the new BMW 7-Series and in the morning after a festive dinner was caught by traffic police officers with 0.2 ppm of alcohol in the exhaled air.
Since then, a relaxation has been introduced in Russia, which considers alcohol up to 0.35 ppm to be an error. However, it is still technically impossible to get behind the wheel drunk. That is, even if the device showed an acceptable 0.3 ppm, it is impossible to admit to a sip of champagne made — the traffic inspector may regard this as a confession of drunk driving and deprive him of his rights.
In Russia it is allowed to drive fast
In most European countries, driving at speeds of more than 80 km/h is prohibited on country roads, and in cities and other localities faster than 50 km/h.
In Russia, restrictions are more liberal. In populated areas, you can drive at speeds up to 60 km/h, provided that the signs do not provide otherwise, and 90 km/h outside the city, if it is a regular road, and not an expressway.
It is these values that you should focus on when passing the theoretical part of the law exam. And in life, also remember that unlike other countries in Russia there are no fines for exceeding the speed limit by more than 20 km/h.
According to the rules of the road adopted in Russia, the car must always have either low-beam headlights, front fog lights, or daytime running lights on.
These rules may differ in other countries. So, in many European countries, the inclusion of dipped-beam headlights during the day is either not necessary at all, or is mandatory only in certain periods of the year.
More importantly, in many countries, the use of front fog lights in favorable weather conditions is prohibited at all. In Russia, again, their use is allowed.
Interviewees Autonews.ru motorists who have received driver’s licenses both in Russia and in other countries told about the peculiarities of national procedures.
So, blogger Manu Chapodze, who received his rights both in Russia and in Georgia, noted that when passing the theory in the Transcaucasian state, the rule “The right answer is always the longest” works. At the same time, according to him, the tickets themselves completely repeat the Russian ones 20 years ago. Russian Russian is also available, but the tickets have been translated from Georgian into Russian by an automatic translator, so the question is not always clear.
Russian-born Italian entrepreneur Andrey Matveev complained Autonews.ru the high cost of obtaining a driver’s license in Verona, as well as the fact that the terms of obtaining a document stretch for months.
According to him, unlike the Russian version of theoretical tickets, there are a lot of questions about ecology in the Italian one, for example, how driving style affects harmful emissions of a car. He was also surprised by the question of how the condition of the suspension affects the headlights. At the same time, unlike Russian tickets, not several answer options are available in the Italian version, but simple “yes” or “no”, says Matveev.
Businessman Vladimir Livanov, who passed the law exam in Spain on May 29, 2023, admits that he was surprised by the number of nuances associated with the use of fog lights. According to him, when obtaining Russian rights in this regard, it was much easier for him to remember the theory. Otherwise, he could not remember any problems, except for the deadlines for obtaining documents, which Matveev also complained about.
Recall that if you pass a medical examination in advance and pay the state fee, you can pass a theoretical exam in the traffic police in Russia in just half a day, and it will take about an hour to get a driver’s license proper.