The less familiar you are with the area where you’re driving, the more likely you are to make a mistake. When you travel far afield, especially across borders, this unfamiliarity will likely rise.
If you drive out of the country, such as to Mexico, you’re going to deal with an entirely new set of traffic laws and customs. You might encounter situations that are completely unfamiliar to you. So, how do you remain safe in these unfamiliar surroundings?
Understanding Mexican Driving
In many ways, driving in Mexico is much like driving in the states. You still have to obey the law, and you’ll find many similar driving practices. Still, not all things are the same. For example, signage is in Spanish, distances are in kilometers and auto insurance law is entirely unique.
Often, Americans find it relatively easy to adapt to smaller differences in driving. However, larger, more unique differences exist. At times, they pose threats to your own security within your vehicle. If you don’t know how to handle or avoid these hazards, you could put yourself in extreme personal danger. Take a look at some of these more location-specific hazards as outlined below.
1. Pedestrian and Livestock Traffic
Pedestrians exist everywhere, not just in Mexico. However, pedestrian practices likely differ compared to what you’re used to in the states. For example, pedestrians in certain areas might not use sidewalks. In fact, sidewalks might not even exist in some areas, forcing people to walk in roadways. Hitting a pedestrian still comes with punishment. Drivers should therefore navigate with caution in crowded public areas. Make use of horns, lights and brakes as needed. Never attempt to speed.
Another very unfamiliar sight might be the tendency to encounter livestock in roadways. In rural areas, it is not uncommon for feral or loose livestock to wander into roadways. You certainly don’t want to encounter livestock on the roadway. Hitting one could lead to vehicle damage and problems with the animal’s owner (if there is one).
Always share the road. You might have to pay extra attention given Mexico’s unique pedestrian climate. Furthermore, remember that you might encounter unpaved roads, limited lighting and other hazards in under-developed areas. This often mandates an extreme degree of extra caution to keep yourself and others safe.
2. Highway Bandits
Unfortunately, highway robbery is a threat in certain parts of Mexico. Generally, if you remain vigilant, you have nothing to worry about. Driving on Mexican highways is usually completely safe. However, it’s best to remember that the threat of highway robbery does exist. To avoid it means taking precautionary steps.
Vehicle bandits are often extremely crafty. They might entice drivers to stop their vehicle under the guise of car trouble. It’s usually best for American drivers not to stop for anyone except a licensed law official. Some other ways to avoid banditry risks include:
- Keeping your vehicle locked at all times. Also store all valuables in your vehicle out of sight.
- Using extreme caution when driving in the northern part of the country. This is one area where highway banditry exists at a high rate.
- Not driving at night in any area of the country.
The U.S. State Department can provide more information on avoiding this hazard. That way, you can learn when to use discretion in case highway bandits try to target you.
Military and Police Checkpoints
The Mexican authorities use a variety of highway checkpoints to increase highway security. Usually, these checkpoints seek to stop the flow of illegal contraband throughout Mexico. While not a threat, American drivers should know what to do when encountering these stops.
At roadblocks, the police will likely ask drivers for identification, proof of insurance or other documentation. The police are not there to scare or threaten you. However, they have to ensure public safety. They might also ask to search your vehicle. You should consent to the search, as it demonstrates you have nothing to hide.
Always treat checkpoints with the same respect you would any American license check. As long as you’re friendly, the authorities will likely do the same. Some Americans find it helpful to speak a few words of Spanish at these checkpoints.
Use Mexican Auto Insurance as Protection
You are going to need a Mexican auto insurance policy when driving in that country. Mexico does not recognize American insurance. However, the law will require you to carry a Mexican policy. Therefore, before even entering Mexico, make sure you have valid insurance in place.
Mexican auto insurance can go a long way to increasing your personal security. It can help you afford repairs to your vehicle after an accident. It can also protect your legal liabilities in case of any damage you cause to others as a result of your actions. Therefore, talk to one of our agents to determine how best to set up your coverage.