Driving in Mérida

I am NOT a whining malcontent… I do NOT think everything is better in the country I come from… I do NOT believe that my way is the only way.

But I AM extremely tired of taking my life in my hands every time I get behind the wheel of my car…

  1. The scariest of scary driving situations is to have the motorcycles swarming around my car like wasps at a bar-b-que. When the light turns, they take off like bats out of Hell – any which way – and I’m terrified that I’ll hit one. They don’t seem to know that I can’t see them roaring up on my right!
  2. Very irritating it is… to be stopped at an intersection, and have another car speed up beside you. He can see just fine, but until he’s gone, you can’t – and you were there first. To me, this behavior is just as rude as shoving another person out of the tortilla line up.
  3. Parents picking up their kids from school. They have NO consideration for others on the road. I’ve seen them parked three abreast – deaf to my pleas… Ah-h-h-h but they are setting fine examples for the little ones!
  4. Cell phone use while driving is supposed to be illegal. I still see loads of people talking on cell phones; it seems this new rule is not being enforced.
  5. Ditto the use of seat belts
  6. When I’m stopped and there’s a CONTINUA sign, I won’t dash out into the traffic if the coast is not clear (if other cars are coming right at me) yet the driver behind me will still honk his horn incessantly.
  7. I get so frustrated at the lack of good manners and patience. What is so terrible about letting some guy back out of his garage, or change lanes? It seems like Merida drivers would rather plough into me than allow me to slip ahead of them.
  8. Big buses and trucks tailgating me is a nerve-wracking experience.                                                                            
  9. The flashing blue and red lights on the patrol cars are really distracting.
  10.  I am extremely nervous that one of these days I’ll run over one of the people who twist and weave through the stopped cars asking for money.

What are your driving nightmares?



Filed under Vida Latina

33 responses to “Driving in Mérida

  1. Tracy Coates

    If you think driving in Merida is terrifying try walking! I tend to walk everywhere and my god it is a fine art to cross the street. Cars don’t use signals and there is no right of way for the pedestrian if they are turning look out! The sidewalks are dreadful, some so skinny with a hydro pole in the middle that you have to venture into the traffic to get around. My legs ache from going up and down the super high curbs. My partner David actually likes driving in Merida when we hit a roundabout I just close my eyes. I totally feel your pain. Not sure how to leave a photo but I have great one of me on one of the wonderful sidewalks in Centro.

  2. YucatanMan

    Sitting at a traffic light, no traffic in site, at 9:00 am, when suddenly the large Dodge pickup I was driving was hit – hard – from behind by a small Nissan Tsuru. There was no screech. No honk. Nothing but IMPACT!

    Gathered my wits and jumped out to look at the damage. Miraculously (or due to heavy steel bumpers), the Dodge was undamaged. But the Tsuru looked to be totaled with the hood buckled up towards the windshield, both fenders crunched back, spewing coolant and steam… The driver staggered toward me — dead drunk at 9 am — looked at the pickup bumper and declared, “Parece que no hay danos.” (“Huh?” I thought, his car was destroyed!)

    I went back to the cab to get the insurance papers and what not… when the steaming, rattling, creaking car rolled into the intersection (red light again!), made a left turn, and roared off to the north. Well…. “no hay danos” to the pickup, so I went on my way, wondering just how far the drunk would get with his wreck of a car. Luckily, I escaped a lengthy bureaucratic encounter with insurance agents and police. “No hay danos!”

    • That happened to me once but it was a motorcycle that hit me… He too roared off… straight for a wall… riccheted off that… and wobbled away. A barber who watched the whole scene saw how upset I was and he came out of his shop to offer me water… Two kinds (actually many kinds) of people live here…

  3. norm

    I was letting a farmer pull out in traffic when a young man bumped my rear bumper. The young man starts yelling at me for letting the farmer out and causing him to run into me. He gets out of his car, waving his arms and yelling what he is going to do to my person. I say to myself ,”thank you God” and get out of my car. I went bald early, the guy thought he was picking on a old man-was not the case. I let him off with a “behave yourself” lecture after he begged me to let him get back in his car.

  4. I have to tell this story because I feel ill every time I think of it. When we were in Merida in March we took a tour to a well known henequen hacienda and were picked up by their transport bus. While still in Merida we were barreling down a narrow street. I saw up ahead a man riding a bicycle alongside the parked cars on the right. Our driver blew his horn but did not slow down. Just after the horn blast we heard a loud thud on the right side of the bus. Everyone heard it but nobody had seen the bike rider but me. From my seat I couldn’t see out the back so I don’t know if we hit the bike rider or a parked car. Our driver just kept going. When we left the bus I could see a large scrape on the side of the bus. I felt sick the rest of the day.

    • That is chilling. Did you report the incident to the tour company that organized the trip to the hacienda? If not, I think you still could do so. I think telling your story would help you to get over the trauma and perhaps help the victim, if there was one. At any rate, that oaf of a driver would be reprimanded!

      • I didn’t tell the tour company. I mentioned it to someone…I think our hotel owner, who thought it might have been the bicycle rider hitting the bus with his fist. No, it was louder than that, and we were going too fast for him to have had a chance to reach out. And there was the scrape on the side. I was just emailing the tour company the other day, so I’ll talk to him.

      • Nancy, I think you need to continue with your email… I wish you the best.

    • YucatanMan

      How horrible!

      My greatest fear in Yucatan isn’t Dengue Fever or hurricanes or aluxes… it is bus drivers. Seriously.

      They are going where they are going and not stopping for anything. They whip around corners in Centro where it is impossible for them to see people or cars in the street in their path. Many of the hulking vehicles are growing quite old after a campaign about 10 years ago or so to modernize the bus lines. The drivers have become ruder to passengers in the last 15 years too.

      Report the bus, the date and time to the tour company. It’ll make you feel better and me too.

  5. I’m scared too, Joanna–hitting someone would be devastating. I now practice avoidance–I seldom drive into Centro at all, and even take a taxi to get there; same thing for driving at night; I ask passengers not to talk to me while I’m driving (and avoid driving those who cannot stop talking.)

    Over the years, I’ve heard these statements from some Mexicans: “Why didn’t you honk?”, “Maybe he just likes to drive fast”, and a Mexican saying– “Laws are made to be broken.” I also avoid untested situations, which are bound to be “buggy” (just like new software)–I’ve still not tried the new tunnel underpass.

    But here’s a true story. I don’t have the nerve to do it, but….

    A woman in the USA, upon being honked at to move, got out of her car, walked back to the honker, and politely asked, “May I help you?” Still makes me smile.

  6. The left-turn deal. There really isn’t a consensus on what a left turn signal means. I know that generally, on a highway in the country and where there are no dedicated left turn lanes, if you want to turn left and there is traffic behind you, you should signal left and then get off to the right until everyone has passed you, then take the left. I do it all the time, usually no problem.

    In the city, a left turn signal generally does mean a left turn. However, I park my car in a downtown garage that is on the left-hand side of a one way street. If I signal a left turn, people often hug left and ride my bumper, making it unsafe and difficult to pull in, especially because people parking on that side do not leave space to round the corner into the entrance, necessitating a wide turn. Everyone takes a left signal and the wide turn to be an invitation to pass on my left, even though I signal left and wave my arm out the window and point, Mexican style, at where I am going. If I slow and put on my emergency flashers, as many do when parking, the result is about the same. With traffic on the narrow street and other factors, signaling left while pulling right to wait doesn’t result in anything safer.

    It has always seemed to me that no matter what the driver in front of one is doing, if they are signaling and slowing down, those behind should follow at a safe distance and let them do what they need to do. A lot of people, as polite and “educados” as they are when you meet them walking on the street, completely lose all sense of civility and politeness, so say nothing of common sense, when they get behind the wheel.

    My first ever blog-comment rant. That felt good!

    • Ah yes Marc, the left turn… very ambiguous replies will be what you get from to this question. I watch the guy in front of me… and expect the unexpected. The people behind? I try to stay out of their way. If some guy is barreling up behind me, I move over. I have learned that ultra-defensive driving is the wise choice. Even though it is not my nature to concede to bullies, when it comes to driving and keeping my little Ecosport dent-free, I think it’s the most prudent course.

    • the left signal, or any signal for that matter just simply imply you are about to do something!
      And, according to the drivers manual, if you call it that, If you are going to turn left, you are supposed to pull off to the right until the way is clear, then turn left ?#@*%.

      always an adventure eh? now don’t even get me started on the new tunel?*%$@%*%#&(($#

  7. Agree on all four opening statements wholeheartedly… even the rest of it… just change the location… voila… driving is never fun for me no matter where… just nerve wracking. Hope you get where you need to go safely, thanks for sharing your piece on this.

  8. Me encantan los Yucatecos y mi gente adopada. Son hermosisimos, pero la verdad algunos pendejos no pueden manejar para nada.

    Besos a todos!

  9. Although the sleepy town of St Elena now has a new police patrol at one intersection it still does,nt stop the motocyclists jutting out in front of you willy nilly.Or the tricyculos !
    Ticul does not far any better with motos,bikes etc coming at you on a one way street!!
    BAby,s in arms between mum and dad and this too is against the law………. but where are the police when these violations are taking place ………. probably its break time and they are munching on their panuchos or salbutes drinking coca cola!
    one of the worst things I saw the last time I was in Merida was a moto with dad in front baby squished in the middle and mum at the back…………. On the periferico weaving in and out of traffic.I was aghast at how insensitive the parents were.
    Yes Joanne I sympathize whole heartedly.
    But you can understand it when you go for your licience…. ten questions a reverse parking and thats it!

  10. Ty

    I certainly agree with the flashing lights on the police cars….what are they doing? And they go so slow. Also, the ”Alto” signs at the intersections with traffic lights. A green light and an ”Alto” sign at the same time, you gotta love it!

    • I think the police’s strategy is “show themselves”… sort of like saying, “I’m around so you’d better behave!” Stop signs and traffic lights at the same intersection – just making a strong statement, I guess.

      • yeah, they are around, but in response to bad driving or traffic issues they do nothing, no enforcement at all!

      • You’re speaking of “Merida’s Finest” I presume… well, I guess they pick and choose their battles…

      • YucatanMan

        There wasn’t a “reply” button on debi’s comment, but this is to reply to that one…

        There are various types of police – a bewildering specialization of varieties actually. Burglary, riot control, all types. Those patrolling slowly (more or less) with their lights flashing are on “security patrol,” checking to see that all is well with storefronts, people on the sidewalks, etc. They are not traffic control. There are specialized traffic cops too, but not in the majority.

        There was some hope or passing thoughts that the new traffic law might see more emphasis on traffic eduation and enforcement, but after the big announcements, all remains as before.

        Anyway, even if there were enough traffic cops, if they stopped everyone violating the law, the streets would be packed with stopped cars.

      • Thanks for pointing out the differences… Yes, there would be a lot of people stopped waiting for their ticket and half of them would have no idea what they did wrong. Obligatory Drivers’ Ed would sure be a wonderful thing…

    • I believe the stop sign and light conflict probably represents a bureaucratic lapse in coordination–one department changes the light, and another removes a sign. That’s possibly also the reason that, when there is an accident, many police cars pass by, but do not stop. My guess is that they’re not on the “accident detail” for the day.

      I remember being amazed to see a parade on Paseo Montejo, with the cessation of traffic. AND, at the same time, road work was being performed. I thought, “How great!” But it turned out that the parade had been totally unexpected by the agencies in charge, and had caused other major traffic problems.

      I recently did I see an article about where to call the city to report “baches” (potholes.) So progress IS being made. To do our best, we need to anticipate these “glitches” and continue to drive and WALK defensively.

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