Fasten Your Seatbelts: It’s a Bumpy Ride in Greece

Greece is the only European Union country where drivers can go straight ahead on red, apparently, because they do, but you can’t blame them because they’re probably trying to find an empty spot on the sidewalk to park.

That’s a little inconvenient for pedestrians, people with children or pushing baby carriages, the elderly and disabled, if they can find a straight stretch without cars that also doesn’t have trees popping up or cement front steps of houses sticking out.
It’s so dangerous, as well as difficult to navigate in Greece, that American expatriates and Greek-Americans have to show they have either a AAA International Driver’s license or prove they have raced in either Formula 1 or NASCAR.

Also accepted is experience in Demolition Derby, expertise in parking or finding the last empty parking space in New York City, driving on California’s freeways or dodgems (bumper cars) at a carnival, or a driver’s instructor for high school students.

So here is a guide to driving and parking in Greece if you’re going to be spending enough time to get behind the wheel, and if you have a residency permit or dual citizenship and want a Greek license, which is only slightly more difficult than getting a Golden Visa.

The obvious tragedy of fatalities and injuries aside – the number of people killed in traffic accidents is still alarmingly high although it fell 44 percent from 2010-19 because of better roads and cars and not because of enforcement – driving in Greece can be comedic.

And certainly dangerous. The number of road deaths is lower than before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and almost nobody was driving for a year during lockdowns, but rose again since then.

Compared to the rest of the EU, Greece was the fourth worst in 2022 in fatalities per million inhabitants (71), with experts citing poor driving behavior. The EU average is 46 deaths per million inhabitants.

“In 2021, there was optimism about road safety in Greece, because in the decade 2010-20 we had the largest reduction in the number of deaths in road accidents (-54 percent) across the EU,” Panagiotis Papantoniou, President of the Hellenic Institute of Transportation Engineers told the paper.

“In fact, the number of fatalities is increasing,” he said, and if you’ve driven you’ve seen the evidence why. People speed, talk on their cell phones, don’t wear seat belts, ignore lights and safety warning signs like they are politicians immune from prosecution for almost anything, and have an entitled feeling they own the roads.

Greece is sixth in Europe on the list of the worst countries for drivers, behind Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Croatia, and Poland, an improvement from 2014 when it was third behind Lithuania and Poland.

Not surprisingly in a country where warm weather most of the year allows more driving time, and they do it with abandon – most without helmets and seeing how fast they can while weaving – Greece has the highest mortality and proportion death rates for motorcyclists and one of the highest for moped riders.

The percentage of motorcyclists killed in Greece is especially high at 38 percent, more than double the European average of 18 percent, and the percentage of them killed in residential areas is 45 percent compared to 20 percent in Europe.

The National Technical University of Athens reported that 69 percent of dead motorcycle and moped drivers didn’t wear or weren’t recorded as wearing a helmet as most strap it around their elbows instead of protecting their heads.

The chance for a motorcycle driver, aged 18-24, to lose their life is more than ten times greater than a passenger vehicle driver of the same age, the young of course being the greatest number of them, speeding carelessly.

And while the weather in Greece is far better than in bicycle-crazy Holland, AKA The Netherlands, you can count the number of bicyclists in the cities where there are alleged bicycle lanes on one finger – lanes used more by cars and taxis than bicyclists.

The bicycle lanes are in Athens, the second-largest city Thessaloniki, as well as Volos, Karditsa, Trikala, Larissa, Kavala, Nafplion, Lamia, and Messolonghi, although they should come with chalk outlines of victims to save time later when the police and ambulance arrive.

Bicycling in the cities is even more dangerous than driving – or walking, which requires being in the street mostly because the sidewalks are full of cars or tables and chairs put out by restaurants who’ve taken them over the way businesses have taken over beaches.

But people are people no matter in which country they live and the reasons for danger in Greece are much the same as elsewhere, although riskier than most: a University of Iowa study found the root cause for accidents is aggression, often leading to road rage.

So you need to practice driving with one hand while the other has the middle finger ready to be extended in a greeting to other drivers as well as mastering a few key words like’“Na!’ although that requires the whole use of one hand extended high in anger.

Otherwise, fear not because even in Greece you’re safer driving than in the United States which had 44,000 road deaths in 2023, a rate of 133 per million inhabitants, compared to 57 in Greece, so perhaps Greek drivers could start driving schools for Americans.


On Wednesday, April 10th, 19 years were completed since the repose of the blessed memory of Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America.

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