Driving? My God I am going to die. That’s how I feel every time I get into a car here in Colima.
I am American. Generally speaking, I like to think of myself as more international than hardcore American; however, if I am truthful, I am hardcore American. My “Americanness” manifests itself in my love of rules and order. As a matter of fact, I think I may be borderline obsessive, compulsive about it.
A bit of a contradiction.
In the days of my youth, as the song goes, I was a proud punk rock revolutionary. I had (and still have) radical tastes in music, art and fashion, but if it meant breaking a window or spray painting graffiti – I was outta there.
In the United States rules are like oxygen – essential. As a child, there were rules about how much television I could watch; rules about homework and rules about weekly chores. Behavior was conditioned by simple Pavlovian methodology: follow the rules – no problems; break a rule and trouble will result (punishment).
Over the years I practically eroticized rules and regulations.
In all of my travels, I found only one place that is as obsessed with rules as I am –Munich. I love Munich; the epitome of orderliness and civil behavior. My two favorite memories of Munich?
Standing at an empty intersection (along with a dozen Münchners) and waiting for the light to turn green before we crossed the street. No one walked against the light!
While on the metro train, I watched an older man ask a twenty something to halt a loud cell phone conversation. The guy acquiesced and apologized for being disruptive. Sweet Jesus I found my paradise! If it weren’t for the cold weather, frequent nudity and high cost of living; I’d probably be living in Berlin.
In many respects, Mexico is more like Europe than the United States. That is what I love about Mexico.
I always say: Driving in Mexico? It could be your last day on earth.
My husband and I do not have many disagreements. Considering how apprehensive I can be; this is a great achievement. I truly admire his patience and dedication. The one space where we always argue is when we get into our car. From my perspective, a casual trip to the local bakery is death race 3000; to him it is normal, easy. He has only one simple request of me. He wishes I would stop shrieking in horror.
The problem is, I have seen too many heinous accidents. Consequently, one of the first common expressions I recognized was “Que! Me asustaste!” translation: “What the hell! You scared me.” His reaction after I yell.
Drivers are very aggressive here…men, women, old farts everyone puts the pedal to the medal. Driving and maintaining safe distance is a fleeting American dream. Red lights, turn lanes, solid lines on the road – it all means nothing. It’s just street art. Drivers are free to do as they choose…and they readily choose anarchy!
In Chicago, parking and moving violations are a cherished revenue source. There is an entire city bureaucracy dedicated to driving vigilance and revenue.
Here in Colima, the police seldom harass motorists. As a matter a fact our local police made national news recently – videotaping themselves engaging nighttime drag racing. They actually posted a race to Facebook. Sigh.
I decided to challenge myself when I wrote this entry. Is driving in Mexico tantamount to a death wish or am I nuts?
The answers I found left me…..conflicted. First, Mexico and the United States have nearly the same rates of accidents.
Mexico has only a slightly higher per capita accident rate. Mexico’s rate is 12.3 per 100,000 while the US’s rate is 10.6 per 100,000. In essence Mexico averages two more accidents per 100,000 than the US. The rates of deadly accidents have been climbing in both countries. About 24,000 people die in accidents annually in Mexico and about 38,000 annually in the US.
The US population is around 318 million and Mexico has 123 million.
According to the Mexican Traffic Safety Research Center, “Mexico registers about 4 million traffic accidents each year.”
“The high number of accidents make for a “really crazy” situation because the country has about 22 million vehicles with an average age of 15 years.”
The Top Causes in Mexico:
- 30 percent of accidents were the result of speeding and/or alcohol
- 20 percent of accidents were the result of failure to maintain a proper following distance and/or carelessness
- 20 percent of accidents were the result of cars going the wrong way on one way streets
- 8 percent of accidents were the result of failure to obey traffic signals
- 8 percent of accidents were the result of fatigue
- 7 percent of accidents were the result of illegal passing
The Top Causes in the US:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk Driving
- Speeding, failure to maintain safe distance
- Failure to Obey traffic signals
- Impaired vision
- Car design
Notwithstanding the rankings there really isn’t much difference. It’s basically, the same friggin’ pattern!
Recently, I read a statement on “Tripadvisor” that undoubtedly sums up my perspective.
“If you are easily offended by drivers who do not follow the rules; you probably should not drive in Mexico.”
Got it. I agree. In the end, my neurosis always rules the day.
My reward is the fact that I do not drive here. I leave that to my husband; he’s perfectly fine with the craziness. As my husband always says, “Here in Mexico we don’t discriminate – we treat all colors equally – Green, Yellow and Red.”
Perhaps I owe him an apology for all of the screams?