Driving


Be careful! I drive like YOU!

Driving in Mexico requires the development of a different set of skills that are not acquired from driving in the USA. Americans tend to obey the rules of the road, unless they think no one is watching. Mexicans, on the other hand, view all traffic signs and signals as mere suggestions. In general, driver’s courtesy is nonexistent.

Don’t think you have the right of way just because you have the green light. Oh, no! In Mexico, es la ley del más rápido. Survival of the swiftest! Be prepared to be cut off by that unseen, rapidly approaching car coming out from seemingly nowhere! You must always be prepared to slam on your brakes for those occasions. Heaven help you if you collide with another vehicle. For, El que pega, paga. That’s right! The striking vehicle must pay for the damages, regardless of whose fault it really was.

In Mexico City, you’re either flooring the gas pedal or slamming on the brakes. It’s one extreme or the other. And unless you’re thoroughly familiar with the area, you will end up driving the wrong way down a one-way street. I know I did it a few times. What surprised about my mistake is how courteous and patient Mexican drivers were with my mistake. Was it because of my Illinois license plate? Or the fact that I was driving head on into three lanes of traffic with all oncoming cars speeding toward me. I imagined a deadly game of chicken, but instead, all the drivers stopped and allowed me to turn around and drive in the correct direction. Then I remembered that the striking vehicle must pay, so everyone wants to avoid accidents.

Another contributing factor to all this driving madness is the layout of all the streets that rarely follow the grid pattern of modern cities like Chicago. Streets in Mexico City curve and angle like a tangled mess of spaghetti. It’s not unusual to have to accelerate to merge with high-speed traffic, quickly change three or four lanes, and then practically slam on the brakes to make a turn. Oh, what fun!

If you don't like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk!

David Diego Rodríguez, Ph.D.
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