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Driving fanatics, not always a good thing…

June 18, 2005

In Finland there are more than 2.5 million vehicles on the road. In a country of just over 5.2 million, that is one car for every two people. In the good economic times of the late 1990’s in Finland there was an explosion of new cars on the roads, especially in southern Finland and the Capital area. Go to other parts of Finland (I’ll use Kuopio as an example because I go there a few times a year) and the cars, on average, are much older. I’ve heard a statistic some where that the average age of a car on Finnish roads is eight years old. Don’t quote me on that. I will have to dig up the information and let you know about it later.

Traffic congestion is becoming a real problem here, though others may beg to differ. Coming from a small town in northern Ontario means that I am not used to seeing this many cars on the roads. You won’t catch me dead driving in Helsinki, I can manage Ruoholahti and Lauttasaari (southwestern suburbs), but downtown – no thanks!  The big roads going into Helsinki are jammed during rush hour and this is only expected to get worse as time goes on. Traffic volumes in Finland grow by about three percent a year according to Helsingin Sanomat International, which wrote about it some months ago.

Another noticeable trend (and a worrying one too) is the number of people driving motorcycles in Finland. I say that it is worrying because the number of people getting injured and killed in motorcycle accidents has increased over the last few years. The typical buyer of a motorcycle in Finland is a man in his 40’s that got his motorcycle licence back in the 1970’s. (Motorcycle licencing has gone through an overhaul since then.) Finland’s driving safety authority Liikenneturva ( has expressed concern with the increase in motorcycle deaths and injuries and reminds new motorcycle drivers that riding a bike is not the same as driving a car. The "need for speed" also seems to be a factor in accidents.

Drinking and driving remains a problem of despicable proportions in Finland and I cannot wait for the Finnish government to pass legislation that would increase the sentences of people who are stupid enough to drink and drive. Excessive alcohol consumption is a fact of life here, and it’s even acceptable, but I don’t understand why operating any motor vehicle (i.e. cars, boats, etc.) when you are drunk is acceptable. If I ever catch anyone I know attempting to do anything of the sort while drunk, they’ll be in big trouble! Thankfully I have pretty responsible friends, so no problem there.

Another interesting thing about cars in Finland is related to taxis. I heard that there is law in Finland stating that licenced taxis cannot be older than two years. So that means if you take a taxi ride anywhere in Finland you will always be in a relatively new car. What a nice idea – no need ride in dilapidated old cars like at home! In the capital area there are some 2000 taxis (found that out last night on a taxi ride home from a party). Unfortunately taxi rides are not cheap, a ride from downtown Helsinki to my home in Espoo (20km+) can run as high as €32,00 (about 46 bucks Canadian).

Check out this link for good measure, the Finnish Road Administration has dozens of road weather cams set up all over the country. Roll your mouse over a camera symbol on the map to see the name of it, click on it to view the location. One of my favourites is the road to Kilpisjärvi in Lapland, which I travelled on last fall.

I could also tell you about the outrageous price of gas in Finland, but that’s another story…

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