Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Honduras Driving Tips

I found this article awhile back and laughed like crazy.  This was written by Judith Shaffer and published in Honduras This Week Online in 1996...nothing has changed:


I, not being a Honduran native, have had one experience that very few Hondurans share: driver's ed. Now, this isn't about me feeling superior because I come from a country where people are expected to learn how to drive before they drive. On the contrary, I feel a certain relief when I'm on the road in Honduras. Gone is the fear that I might inadvertently commit a traffic violation and be chastised by a ticket-happy cop. You see, traffic violations don't really exist in Honduras. In order to have violations you need enforcement. But before you have enforcement you need laws. And before you have laws someone has to care. And that's the beauty of driving in Honduras: no one really cares.

Before the transit police start sending letters of opposition to the HTW editor, I suppose I'd better clarify that Honduran law does, in fact, cover traffic. But traffic laws in Honduras carry about the same weight as the prohibition in a Chicago speakeasy.

For someone who got through driver's ed by the skin of her teeth and failed her first driving test after knocking over two orange pylons and running a red light, Honduran roads are a kind of paradise on radial tires. Those of you used to driving by the rules, however, or at least having rules to drive by, might want to take a look at the following pointers. Think of them as a crash course on how to drive like a Honduran. Oops. Did someone say crash?

Speed Limits: To calculate the maximum speed limit in Honduras, take the average mph of a 16-year-old boy driving his father's BMW on a Saturday night and multiply it by the speed of sound. The minimum limit is anything faster than parked.

Passing: The best places for passing on Honduran highways are sharp mountain curves. For best results, tail the vehicle in front of you at a distance no greater than two feet and swerve into oncoming traffic a few times to get the feel of the pass before actually completing the manoeuver. Seasoned passers accentuate their performance by flashing their brights and honking their horns.

Traffic lights: Green means go. Yellow means go. Red means at least three more cars can squeeze through before the drivers waiting on the perpendicular road throw their vehicles into gear and accelerate.

Merging traffic: If you think you can merge without being hit by approaching traffic, merge. If you think you might be hit by an approaching vehicle, but its driver looks alert enough to be able to brake in time, merge. If there's room for an oncoming car to move over, creating space for three vehicles across instead of just two, merge. While you're weighing these options, keep your foot off the brake and allow your vehicle to inch forward slowly.

Right of way: Whichever vehicle is moving faster has the right of way. If two vehicles are moving at the same speed, the larger has the right of way. If one of the vehicles has CD (cuerpo diplomatico) plates, that vehicle has the right of way.

Honking: Your horn and your brakes serve the same purpose. They can be used interchangeably.

Potholes: You have three choices when approaching a pothole: you can drive right over it as if you didn't notice it was there, you can swerve to avoid it, or you can brake and drive over it slowly. In the latter two cases, all movements must be made suddenly and sharply. Do nothing to alert the vehicle behind you of your intent to swerve or stop until the last possible minute.

Turning left: Your blinkers are for decorative purposes only. If you want to turn left, stick your arm out the window, aim it toward the ground at a 45-degree angle with your palm facing backward and cock your hand back several times at the wrist. The faster you cock, the faster the vehicle behind you will brake.

Turning right: See "Turning Left".

Stopping suddenly: See "Turning Left".

Changing lanes: See "Turning Left".

Warning fellow drivers of oncoming danger: See "Turning Left".

Letting fellow drivers know that you're aware of the fact that they want to pass you, but aren't the least bit interested in letting them: See "Turning Left".

Waiting in line: There is no need to wait in line on Honduran roads. If you find yourself in a general traffic jam, take advantage of all available means to advance your vehicle, including oncoming lanes, soft shoulders, sidewalks and landscaped medians. If you approach a vehicle from behind and it's waiting to turn left, don't stop at its rear; pull up alongside the vehicle and ease ahead of it, making sure to fully block its view of oncoming traffic.

Pedestrians: If you think pedestrians have the right of way, I hope you're in a car and not on foot.

1 comment:

Laurie said...

Ahhh. Good stuff. Missed a few things: Taxis that stop or BACK UP on four lane highways. Using ramps to four lane highways to BACK UP to older road. Cars stopping and blocking traffic for no apparent reasons. Just stop, smell the roses, and cause a pile up. Then move on after 5 to 10 minutes. Maybe let a passenger out, kiss them goodbye, hand them lunch, etc. on a busy freeway, nonetheless!

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