TBT - "The Trouble With Driving in Mexico".

Driving here in South Florida is really getting hectic. Besides the extra congestion brought on each winter by the 'Snowbirds' visiting - we have too many old people that go too slow, young people that go too fast, and the rest do not know where they are going!

Over the years I have had the opportunity to make personal observations on driving in other countries too. So I am sharing some of those observations on FB, and in an effort to keep each post short, I have divided that information into several posts, making it a chronological journey.

Living in Mexico (1965)

"He who hits - pays!". That was the advise I got from a fellow student (it may have been Bill Hogan at the University of the Americas) in Mexico City when I told him that driving in this chaotic city of 6 million was too stressful. I was intimidated by more then the sheer volume of vehicles - traffic control was minimal with few lights and police controlling intersections. Most major intersections ran into 'roundabouts' with 6 or more lanes circling a huge statue or monument. I would end up driving around some monument at least five times before I could manage an exit on the street I wanted!

So my friend patiently explained that Mexican traffic courts put most of the weight on determining who was at fault in a traffic accident on "who hit who?". He said that in the 'glorieta' (a Mexican roundabout) you controlled any lane where your car is slightly ahead of any nearby vehicle - just push your way into the lane you want and they will have to brake or risk hitting you!

So no more driving stress for this gringo. I happily shoved buses, trucks and cars aside as I cut them off to exit on any street I wanted in those crazy intersections. All you had to do was watch your front end. You only needed a rear view or side view mirror to comb your hair!

"The Mordida". Another important aspect to driving in Mexico is knowing how and when to use a bribe called 'the Mordida' ('little bite' in English). Many individuals in public service in Mexico buy their (low paying) jobs outright, as opposed to the system in the USA, were other methods of corruption get people into public service. They get their investment back, and then some - by taking bribes (mordidas).

Back in '65 I often hitched a ride to school on over-loaded gravel trucks that passed by my apartment on the Toluca highway. The driver would slow down if we came upon a highway patrolman along the side of the road and the driver would pass me a few pesos, then I would lean out the window and put it into the patrolman's hand as we creeped on past him. The mordida we paid allowed the truck to continue on the highway without having to stop for a weight check or to have the documents for the truck or driver examined. When I commented to one driver that it looked like being a highway patrolman in Mexico was very profitable - he said that it cost at least $20,000 U.S. dollars to get the job, and then the patrolmen had to provide their superiors a good monthly income from the bribes as well!

Eventually I came around to thinking of traffic mordidas as 'instant traffic fines'. There were several times I had to pay an 'instant fine' to a traffic cop for some infraction - much more convent then going to the police station. Parking in restricted zones back then could result in a small mordida - far better then being towed! If you had parked illegally, you might return to your vehicle and see the license plate missing. All you would have to do is look for the cop walking around with a handful of license plates and 'buy' you plate back.

Like anything or anyplace new - learn the 'system' and then make it work for you.