Is Mexico Dangerous? Thursday, March 6, 2007

Is Mexico Dangerous?  When we first told people we were going to Mexico for the winter they would ask, “Is it safe?”  The way they asked it implied a lot more  than those 3 little words.  They really meant, “You are crazy for traveling in Mexico as it is very dangerous because you could be robbed, raped, plundered, pillaged, mugged,  stopped at gun point and/or  killed.  I have waited until near the end of our trip to write this blog.  (Just in case one or more of those things happened to us!!!!)  So back to the question.  Is Mexico Dangerous?   Hell, yes.  Here is the reason why. 

This wreck on the side of the road doesn’t look too bad.


But both the car and the 18 wheeler had no place to go except smashed up against the side of the mountain.


The cab had already been removed to the other side of the road when we came by.


 Now that a couple of months have passed, crosses have been placed to honor the fatalities of that accident.


The Mexican people are very friendly, family oriented, caring and the most helpful people.  If you are in trouble they are the first to come to your rescue.  Except when they get behind the wheel of their vehicles and then they become very aggressive with their driving.  It is like they think there are no other people on the road and no consequences  for the way they drive.   It may be part of their culture but it is still not real safe for everyone else on the highway. 

In the US, we are also very safety conscious because of all rules and regulations we have.  Most of the highways here are 2 lanes especially in the mountainous jungle area with lots of curves, very few straight sections and absolutely no passing lanes.  The curves present a big problem.   1)  Because of relatively excessive speed, many drivers tend to veer across the center line when taking the curves.  2) They will pass on the curvy part of the roads and expect the drivers coming toward them to look out for them.  As in the states, double lines in the middle mean “no passing”.  It is just some paint on the road to Mexican drivers.  Yesterday even the cop passed us on a double yellow line.  We have seen many a truck driver on our side of the road.  3)The roads are narrow with a white line on the outside of your lane.   The shoulder will be only 2 – 8 inches wide with a drop off that may be a few inches or 100 feet deep.  I haven’t seen a highway that is built level with the surrounding ground here in Mexico.   Even flat, straight roads are built up higher than the ground with a small shoulder and then a drop off. 

Mexico must not have any regulations for 18 wheelers and small delivery trucks.  We have seen trucks piled as high as possible going down the road.  One day we were behind a truck carrying concrete bags.  They were piled extremely high and about 4 feet above the rails with nothing tied around them.  What would happen if one of those bags fell off?   There are no regulations on the weight they can haul either.  We have seen trucks pulling two semi-trailers (doble remolque) with steel piled so high that the fastest  they can drive up the mountain is 10 miles an hour.  Because the driver is going so slow, traffic begins to back up until there may be 30 cars following behind the truck.  Now if you are the 30th car do you think you can pass all those cars and the truck?   Why not just go with the slow crowd until it is your turn to get up close behind the truck and pass?   Oh, no. They all start passing everyone even if they can not see what is coming towards them.   We have also seen drivers coming  to a screeching halt because someone is passing them and the car passing has no place to go or the oncoming car is in the wrong lane and almost there and can not move over.

Here are workers standing up in the back of their work truck.  This is a very common way for the workers to get to their jobs.


The drivers do have some unwritten rules of the road. If you see an oncoming car flashing his lights (he isn’t warning you about a cop sitting on the side of the road with his radar) he is warning you to slow down as there is a problem down the road.   Or, if you are coming up behind a car going in the same direction as you are and he is flashing his blinkers, he is warning you to slow down as the cars in front of him are going slow.  Left hand signal lights do not necessarily mean that person is turning left.  In fact, probably not.  If  you are following a slow truck up the mountain and he puts his left blinking turn signal on he is telling you it is okay to pass.  So at that point EVERYONE in the lane decides to pass.  If you are really going to turn left at an intersection on the highway and there is not a left hand turn lane it is better you get off on the right hand side of the road until the traffic clears and then turn left across all the lanes.  Everyone carries a red flag or piece of red materials with them. 

If you see someone waving a red flag along the road they are telling you to slow down as there is probably a broken down car or bus in the road up ahead.  We have come across that many times on the highway.  One night just after dusk we spotted several people on the side of the road waving at us.  They had CD’s in their hands.  Amazingly, they were using them like a flashlight as and reflecting our headlights back to us as a warning .  We slowed down and sure enough there was a bus broken down in the middle of the lane, on a curve, heading in the opposite direction.  There were people with actual flashlights slowing the traffic down in the opposite direction. 

In Texas we see anywhere from 1 horse trailer to a huge horse trailer with living quarters for the driver (really a rider!) driving along the highway.  We have seen a few horse trailers but here if you need to transport 1 or 2 horses, just put them in the back of the pickup with rails around them and go!!!!! 

A horse being transported in a pick up.


So is Mexico really dangerous?   No, except on the highways. I have gone on walks all over Sayulita with several women and walked all over Lo De Marcos by myself.  People say they feel safer in Mexico than the US.  I certainly understand that comment.  I would not walk in the same type of neighborhoods in the US that I have walked in here in Mexico and feel safe.

When we had a tour guide in Puerto Vallarta he stated that crime was very low because there are enough jobs for everyone here in this area. I do not know about other areas.  When President Fox (2000-2006) was elected he was determined to stop drugs, crooked cops and bribes. He did a great job and  President Calderon, now in power, hasn’t let it revert back to the old system.  When we first arrived in Mexico several rigs in a caravan going through Hermosillo was stopped by the same cop and wanted a bribe of $20 each which they paid him. They also got his name and badge number and he was fired a few days later.  Yes, bribery still goes on but if you do not want to pay, make them take you to the police station.

Is Mexico dangerous?  Yes.  The large border towns have drug problems.  Now they are having drug problems in Ensenada (on the Baja) and driving  the tourists away.  Without the drug cartel it would be a safe country.

A few months before we came to Mexico, one of the RV forums asked all the readers to write about their dangerous encounters and send it to the forum.  The people who submitted their bad experiences stated it happened years ago.  Nothing in the last few years.

What about getting sick from the food?   First of all we rarely eat at the hotels and fancy restaurants that a person does if they just fly in for a week or so. We eat where the locals eat.  Rick and I have not had Montezuma’s revenge once.  We were more careful when we first arrived here than we are now.  We do wash the fresh vegetables and soak them in an iodine solution before we eat them because they may use manure for fertilize.  I am not as careful now as I was when we first arrived.   We do drink bottled water and make coffee with it all the time. We do not drink the water from a faucet anywhere.  We don’t drink a lot of drinks with ice but we’re not scared of their ice and figure they have used bottle water to make it.  We feel this way because is the local people use bottled water.  We buy it in the 5 gallon, blue bottles like at a water fountain in an US office for about $1.30 USD.    A water truck comes all over town selling blue water bottles.   If something has a funny smell or look we just don’t eat it.   We buy meat from the local meat market if we can’t make a trip to Wal☺Mart or another big supermarket.   Have we ever had our stomach churning?  Yes, but nothing that keeps us bound to a bathroom.

There are about 85 % Canadians and only 10-15% US citizens here in all the RV parks in Mexico.   I wondered if it was because we hear more about Mexican issues and also the border situations than the Canadians.   Or is it more because of the increased value of the Canadian dollar?  Probably a little of both, but the largest reason is that they are escaping their ferocious winters.   A few years ago there were more people from the states down here for the winter.

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