Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Taking personal responsibility

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An 18-year-old girl was killed after being struck by a driver that failed to stop, as she was crossing the street in a clearly marked pedestrian walk.

Protesters are calling for authorities to boost awareness about road safety and install traffic lights because “cars do not always stop when they should.”

Anyone who has ever lived or visited urban areas of Greece is probably thinking, “Well, no duh.”

Many a times I’ve crossed a street with the pedestrian light showing green, and I was hit by a car anyway. Instead of the driver apologizing and inquiring if I was OK, he only got out of the car to swear at me for being a stupid immigrant/tourist and not looking where I’m going, while I’m laying on the ground with my things strewn about. As I’m collecting myself, he swears some more that I’m slow and holding up his busy day. I probably yelled back a few times, but now I say nothing. You can’t reason or argue with someone who doesn’t have the capacity to understand.

So correct me if I’m wrong, but how is road safety awareness and more traffic lights going to change the mentality and habits of people who refuse to acknowledge personality responsibility? It may pacify some people in the short term, but in the long term it solves nothing.

The majority of people talking on their cell phones, flicking cigarettes out the window and throwing garbage on the street aren’t going to suddenly wake up and say, “oh shit, I’m an idiot.” People who worship Greece because “it’s very free here” are going to continue blaming others — the government, the municipality, the traffic light, the dog, their parents, the Turks, the car in front of them, the weather and God almighty.

I acknowledge that the government isn’t the greatest, no government is. But last I checked, the individual is responsible for himself. He can make a decision to change at every moment of every day. He has the power to respect himself, and without respect for himself, there is no respect for his country, fellow man or life itself.

I keep hearing Greece is the birthplace of western civilization. Well, I’m afraid I’ll need to see some proof. ;)

Related posts

Walking in the Big A
Tickets and fines in Greece
The first time I drove in Athens
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16 Comments »

  PanosJee wrote @ October 25th, 2007 at 20:29

Modern greeks are not greek cos we lack greek culture just a mixture with ottoman attitude

  arammos wrote @ October 25th, 2007 at 23:20

They must install traffic lights at school at least.

  Thomas wrote @ October 25th, 2007 at 23:49

I wrote a post about this myself when I was nearly hit by a car. (Actually, I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t say I was nearly hit with a car, the drivers are so aggressive.) I blame it all on what I called the Collective Solipsism, the belief of the individuals of an entire city or country that no one but themselves really exists.

You should see what it’s like down here in Heraklion when the “petsia” as we call them descend on the city from the mountains in their 4×4’s. Tonight I had some idiot crossing the road in front of me although he had a red light (because, of course, none of us in our cars really exists, only he does) and I had a green light. Several half-wits behind me decided to start honking because I had taken up 1.7 seconds of their valuable time not running over the pedestrian. They were all in a hurry because they were afraid they were going to miss the next red light a few blocks further down the road.

Greeks don’t even know how to walk on the sidewalk and show consideration for fellow pedestrians. Put them behind the wheel, and it’s a disaster. Here in Crete automobile accidents are the biggest cause of death, more than heart disease and cancer and whatever. They say in Greece we lose the population of a small town or large village every year to these reckless idiots.

  rositta wrote @ October 26th, 2007 at 03:34

I nearly got hit a few times myself while I was visiting and was saved by my husband grabbing me back. Your right about personal responsibility, there seems to be a lack of it in Greece. In Calgary, Alberta if you so much as step off the sidewalk onto the street, all cars must come to a halt and let you cross whether it’s an intersection or not, with big fine for the driver who doesn’t stop. Problem in Athens from what I saw is a lack of law enforcement…ciao

  Diana wrote @ October 26th, 2007 at 04:41

After having spent several weeks in Athens this past summer, I have never been so afraid of automobiles. It’s unbelievable how everyone drives there. Pedestrians, unfortunately, seem to have zero rights.

What a sad story about that woman that was killed.

  The Scorpion wrote @ October 26th, 2007 at 09:00

You were hit “many” times by cars here? Wow! That sounds like bad luck. Can you tell us one or two stories of how that happened? I guess I’m just a little bit nervous and actually wait til I see the cars stopped before I cross regardless of whether the light is green or red. Greeks honk at me because I slow down at “blind intersections”. I tried to explain the concept of a “blind intersection” but I just gave up after a few seconds.

  Bollybutton wrote @ October 26th, 2007 at 12:30

I feel like you read my post yesterday, either that or this is a coincidence that we brought up the same topic. No one in Greece wants to take responsibility for their actions. Little Green Man is a pubic sector employee, and thus totally incompetent. Hoping that Greece will change? Keep hoping! I’ll come tell you all about it on my flying pig.

  photene wrote @ October 26th, 2007 at 15:07

It has been the same for as long as I can remember, I honestly believe that most greeks take secret pride in their reckless driving attitude, and believe it’s their right to be as aggressive and rude as possible. Most greeks begin their lives with an idea of supreme sense of global superiority and it definitely shows in their driving, if you’re walking and they’re driving you’re obviously a twit . Forget about the government, greeks have a general disrepect for any sort of authority, there’s a reason why Greece was a country of city-states with war being its primary pastime for thousands of years.

  The Scorpion wrote @ October 26th, 2007 at 15:34

Times they are a changing though. I’ve seen this TRAP on the Attiki ODOS now 3X in a week… Follow the Attiki ODOS in the morning in the direction towards Elefsina (from airport) and when you get towards the KIFFISIAS exit, you will see Greeks driving in the shoulder lane (not actually a lane) to get around the non-moving right lane. I did it myself a few times. In the USA, you will see a policeman who will wait (just out of your view) to catch you shoulder lane violators.

AMAZING: The Greek motorcycle cop who has been there three times this week (right before that Kiffisias exit) and catches those shoulder lane violators, and today an EXTREMELY aesthetically pleasing young Greek woman (albeit not looking too happy) on the curb yakking away to the motorcycle cop.

So, beware yee shoulder lane violators, you will get caught on the ATTIKI ODOS.

Bravo to Greece!!

  GreekAmericannolongerinGreece wrote @ October 26th, 2007 at 20:02

Nothing will ever change in Greece. You either accept all that madness and irritation (and all that freedom you do enjoy) or you move to a civilized society (and have to deal with all kinds of rules and regulations)…

Personally, I miss watching all those penises on the freeway …try to do that in the States folks, and you will be arrested for indecent exposure, pollution, and some sort of terrorist accusation once they find out you hold a foreign passport

We only live once…

  AntigoneSis wrote @ October 26th, 2007 at 21:01

Years ago close friends of ours here in the US lost a beloved cousin in a similar incident. She was trying to cross Leoforos Alexandras to get to her apartment and was hit by a car. I recall her father coming to see us on a visit there a few years later. I served him a glass of beer and still remember how his hand shook as he brought it to his mouth to drink. Very tragic.
Has anyone every gone totally on the offensive and wielded a baseball bat or something and assaulted the offender’s vehicle?

  A wrote @ October 27th, 2007 at 02:48

In the 1960s and 1970s Greece, if an automobile struck a human being in the street, and the human being died, the driver would have been charged with murder (the laws did not contemplate degrees of liability). Maybe this law has been changed to some lesser charge. If not, maybe a campaign and some pressure to enforce it – after all, you have a million cell phones around to take pictures.

  Kat wrote @ October 27th, 2007 at 07:32

P – No comment.

A – Yes, I’m not saying a traffic light is unacceptable; I’m just saying it won’t solve anything long term.

T – I had someone else drive in Crete when I was there 10 years ago; a testament that nothing changes. Great story and probably reflective of many peoples’ experiences. I still love Crete and Cretans though; would have a second home there if I could.

R – I remember you telling me about a few incidents. Our conversation, along with a few others inspired this post.

D – It is sad, and that’s what compelled me to finally write something.

The S – Don’t waste your time explaining things. I don’t think it’s the intersections that are blind. Wink, wink ;) P.S. I’ll get to answering your question a bit later, I’m not ignoring you.

B – I’m sorry I haven’t read your blog in quite awhile, so I don’t know what you wrote. Mine was brought on by a buildup of events, namely when I first wrote about it during the wildfires, dinner conversation with Rositta 2 weeks ago (in which I realized just now that personal responsibility was mentioned in her post called “Last Day“), talking with my fiance on Saturday, then another friend I call “Grits” about his friend in the USA on Monday. I was pushed over the top when the Kathimerini published the story referenced above. If I’m inspired by news or other people’s writing (Mel’s “Death of an iPodrestrian” in my “Walking in the Big A” post), a photo (Emily in France’s find for “Give me a break!“) or a certain format/idea/widget/feature/sitecounter (so far, others copy me without a nod, not the other way around), I always give credit where it’s due.

Nothing changes? Hey no kidding, I’ve been here for 10 years and many people all their lives.

P – I think people mistakenly believe that respecting oneself and others is a loss of freedom, when actually these things have nothing to do with each other. In California, I had a friend who was “rebelling” by speeding and not paying his tickets; but how is that rebelling if all he’s done is give the law more power to hold him by the balls by raising the fine, taking away his license and impounding his car? And I guess that’s the problem here, the law isn’t enforced or, if it is, people usually have a connection, cleavage or their parents’ money to bail them out.

The S – Isn’t Attiki Odos a privately run and operated road? aka, most public roads will never come up to the same standard.

GANLIG – I know nothing will change, I posted that in the previous day AND that was the point of this post — that more safety awareness and traffic lights don’t solve anything. It’s a waste of money. Having freedom is not synonymous with madness, indecency, rudeness and killing people; respect and freedom can co-exist.

An – That’s a sad story :( My fiance’s cousin was also killed in a road accident by a drunk driver here; he was an only son with a sparkling personality, good heart and bright future, and you can still see their heartbreak. From what I’ve seen, many people are all talk and no action. Apathy is a way of life because “it’s someone else’s fault” as I said during the wildfires. And I almost believe if someone did go on the offensive, this person would jump the line, be prosecuted and made an example immediately.

A – That’s true. There are a million cell phones. But as you know, the court system is backlogged almost 2-3 years. Justice would not be swift, which I believe is necessary when enforcing real consequences.

  graffic wrote @ October 27th, 2007 at 17:03

It’s driver’s responsibility. Dot. End. Telos. Fin. Anything else are cheap excuses.

I agree with Thomas about the 4×4… I have some pictures of that and you can laugh and cry. But in all greece they have the “gear detector”, nice technology, or is it genetic? When you try to stop at a STOP sign, and you remove your gear, press the brake in order to stop moving. In the moment you remove the gear, they honk. It happened to me twice, and 1 to my mom. She didn’t believe me hehehe.

I saw people in motorbikes without helmet and speaking, or even writing a sms. And the police? Wow! nice ass baby! really in the center of athens.

But I have experienced crossing the most difficult roads from Irakleio… There you learn how to feel the cars coming. Of course the drivers also feel your presence in the road from far away and they will try to get you, but when you learn how to use the force, you can cross the street. (I was crossing an avenue in irakleio every day twice or 4 times to go to the university). Now in Athens, it serves me well.

There are worst places, and there are better. But now, where I live, is chaos. My wish, more knowledge and respect for others on the road.

  Pete wrote @ October 27th, 2007 at 21:02

You have eyes, you have ears all you need is brains and awareness. Don’t expect traffic lights, laws to protect you wherever in the world you live.
I live in Australia whose road laws are the strictess in the world however, the accidents and red light crossings by drivers happen here too. The only way to abate the accidents is with jail terms to the offenders.

  A wrote @ October 30th, 2007 at 03:35

Yes, but a murder case is a criminal case. Justice can be very swift indeed in Greece when criminal charges are brought. Far quicker than in the US. I know the holiday hooligan cases are merely a way for the police precincts to generate revenue, but compare trials of people like the Unibomber to the N.17 crew – i think Greece goes faster.

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