Safe Driving Practices in Mexico
Many Americans assume that driving in Mexico is dangerous. Usually, this is not the case. Yes, America’s neighbor to the south has unique driving risks, some of which can be quite dangerous. However, Mexican driving in itself is often a perfectly safe, enjoyable experience.
Despite our close connections with Mexico, driving there might seem daunting. Still, if you don’t drive safely in Mexico, you might find yourself in trouble. No one wants to experience driving problems, especially in a foreign country. Therefore, observe safe driving practices that will make your adventure a success.
Before You Go: Obtain Mexican Auto Insurance
American drivers might think they can simply drive into Mexico with no barriers. Wrong answer. Americans have to get proper international travel documents, like passports, vehicle import permits and visas to travel into the country.
Furthermore, Mexican law does not recognize American auto insurance policies. That means if you drive past the U.S. border, your existing auto insurance will likely void.
Mexico and its states requires all drivers to carry their own liability insurance. Therefore, American travelers will need to invest in a Mexican auto insurance policy. Even if you travel in the Mexican free zones, areas with looser visa and import requirements, you still have to carry Mexican Auto insurance. Many American insurers work with their counterparts in Mexico to issue Mexican policies. However, your policy comes directly from the Mexican insurer. Once you get this coverage, you will file any claims with the Mexican auto insurance company. Usually, Americans can obtain policies only for the length of their travels in Mexico.
Once on the Road, Follow Safe Driving Practices
Simply getting Mexican auto insurance won’t give drivers immunity from accidents. Just like domestic driving, foreign driving poses its own risks to Americans. Keep certain safe driving practices in mind as you prepare to travel in Mexico.
- Prepare your vehicle before you go. You want to have a well-functioning car with any road trip. Where you travel shouldn’t impact whether you have the vehicle serviced before you go. Do it regardless. Change the oil and inspect the engine, tires, battery and other vital systems. Remember, most auto insurance policies won’t cover maintenance breakdowns anyway.
- If you find yourself in need of repairs in Mexico, seek out a trusted mechanic who understands U.S. vehicles. U.S. cars and Mexican vehicles often have certain differences in design. Mexican auto mechanics may not be familiar with some of the finer points of U.S. auto repairs. You do not want to entrust your vehicle to someone who might not know how to repair it.
- Plan a route which you intend to travel, and research it beforehand. You should always know what amenities you have available to you along that route. Don’t deviate from your planned route unless you have assurances that it is safe to do so.
- Contrary to tales of highway robbers, cartels and other threats, driving in Mexico is usually perfectly safe. Nonetheless, there are places that do pose threats to tourists. The U.S. Department of State and the Mexican authorities sometimes issue travel advisories. They might warn visitors to avoid certain areas. Both before and during travel, know which areas that it is best to avoid. Don’t venture into these areas if you can help it.
- No one wants to have their purse or wallet stolen from their car when they stop for gas or the night. This can happen anywhere you go in Mexico, or even the U.S. for that matter. However, you don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of theft during international travel. Therefore, see to the safety of your possessions at all times. Keep valuable and private possessions with you or locked in your vehicle when you are not inside it. Hide items like purses, electronics or luggage under seats or in trunks. Arm all your security systems when leaving the vehicle.
- Learn the rules of Mexican roads. In many ways, they will be similar to American laws. However, even small differences might impact foreign drivers. For example, you might encounter signage in Spanish. If you don’t understand it you might make mistakes. You might also encounter road construction or markings with which you aren’t familiar. You can often obtain safety guides to help you better understand the rules of the road.
- Take special care when driving at night or in unfamiliar environments. Certain hazards could pop up that you might not expect. For example, livestock might roam on rural Mexican roads at night, posing risks to drivers. Additionally, it is well known that anywhere you go at night, unsavory characters might lurk and emergency services might be scarce. Therefore, always redouble your safety efforts.
The bottom line is to remember that you should drive with extreme care when traveling in Mexico. The safer you attempt to drive, the lesser your chances of encountering problems. Nevertheless, you should never go without protection. Speak to your American insurance agent about getting a Mexican auto insurance policy. Your agent can help you determine how best to protect yourself.