Driving in the Dominican Republic
Driving in the Dominican republic is an experience in itself. Especially foreigners who come from countries where road rules are strict get a shock when they see what drivers here get away with. Here are some examples:
Daring: A large number of motorist run red lights, drive with alcohol in their hands, texting or on the phone while driving or wear no helmets when on motor bikes. Motor bike drivers often drive on their back wheels down streets with parked cars and people and seem to have no care for their own or others safety – their ego must prevail! Also it shocks new comers to see small motor bikes with up to 5 people on them (often 1-2 baby’s hanging off mum’s arm). Taxis and mini busses are often crammed with so many people, that you would think they are trying to enter Guinness record book for the most people squeezed into them! Construction workers or truck assistants are often sitting on top of cargo, with no apparent fear of what would happen if they crashed.
Noise: Many drivers also believe they “must” be noticed by everyone else, and build half a disco into the boot of their cars and drive with the boot open after which they turn the volume up till it can be heard 5 blocks away and set every car alarm off nearby. The police seems to ignore this.
Disrespect/Arrogance: Especially male taxi, bus and truck drivers, seem to take great pleasure in driving ridiculously slow while riding on the middle line with their arm dangling out the window – pulling a long queue of annoyed drivers behind them. DR would also be one of the only country’s in the world where a large majority of drivers refuse to lower their headlights when it’s dark – a big mean ego seem to kick in with a majority when they get behind the wheel! Don’t be surprised if motorists in front of you suddenly slam their brakes on, as they’ve decided that now they need to have a 1-2 minute chat with an amigo or they suddenly saw, or they see a potential buck to be made from someone standing at the road side and therefor justify that it’s o.k. to risk harmonica collisions behind them so they can make 50 pesos!
Rust buckets: Here you will see trucks, cars and vans that are nearly rusted away with bent chassis, warn tires and no side mirrors. A lot of bikes, cars and trucks blow black smoke that will make you want to keep a good distance!
Accidents: If you are a foreigner, it’s very common that if you are involved in an accident, that you will be blamed for destroying years of damages that existed already in their vehicle of bike, and even when you are the victim, many locals will try to frame you as the villain – watch out for this! Watch out at night for motor bikes with no lights (Stay on the middle line as often it’s hard to see the bike till it’s too late) – also there’s many vehicles with missing lights, so be careful not to assume it’s a motorbike coming towards you when overtaking. If someone plays your bluff about you having to pay them money to get rid of them, then suggest to them that you both go to the police to show license and insurance details, as in many cases they start humbling down straight away when they realize they have to be questioned by police. Make an “on the spot decision” what is in your favor, as the police is well known to squeeze you for money whether they helped you or not. Don’t be in a hurry to play “Mother Theresa” if you see someone at an accident needing a lift to the hospital. If some Dominicans or the ambulance can transport the injured person there, then this is favorable, as even if you as a foreigner weren’t involved with the accident, then they will often try to pin it on you, as here the foreigner is always rich! (even though most are not).
Fines: The traffic police “Amet” are fast to pull people over if the driver hasn’t got their seat belt on, or if he/she is on the cell phone. Most times they are just after money – take control of the question asking, speak English and keep the keys away from them – play very difficult, only show copies of all paper work, and tell them that you keep originals in a safe place so that corrupt service people don’t violate you – refuse to go to the station with them – usually they will let you go in the end, as you’ve just entered their “too hard basket”. Better than all this – avoid them when possible – look to the side that they are not standing and by the time you turn your head back, they realize it’s too late to get your attention to pull over (or start sneezing when you approach them waving cars in to the side and just keep going! If you can tell that they are going to fine you, then always claim that you have no cash on you, and take the fine. Afterwards place this amongst your toilet paper as they don’t have any proper follow-up with enforcing you to pay (at least not on the North Coast). Be careful when parking, as Amet drive around like hawks looking for vehicles to tow away – don’t park on yellow lines, where “No Parking” signs do exist, with 2 wheels up on the foot path or too close to a corner (ask a friendly local for advice).
Licenses: Depending on whether you are planning to stay full time or not in the country, could determine whether you choose to go for the DR license or not. Many residents just show a copy of the o/seas license and claim to be a tourist. If you are planning to get a license, then ask someone pleasant in an office, and usually they have a contact to someone who can help you get it for a lot less than trying to go through a lawyer.
Category: DR Living |