From the “Things I took For Granted in the US List”: Item # 1,345 Driver’s Ed.
I, like most in the US I think, have always thought that drivers education class was something intended to make lazy 15 year olds get up early and to keep them out of trouble. Man, was I ever wrong. Try driving in a country with 70 million drivers and not a one has taken driver’s education. Do it and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for the old driver’s ed classes you slept through.
My US driver’s license is valid in Mexico, so I have never had to take a driver’s test here and therefore, might not be the best to explain how driving works here … but I’ll try. As best as I can tell, the first rule of driving here is if the car fits, it must be okay to drive it there. Lines on the road seem to be just a general suggestion. Did you know that most of the time, three cars can fit into two standard traffic lanes? Why waste the space if nobody is using it, right? It does depend on the cars but they almost always fit. Might be why Mexicans prefer smaller cars. Same for speed limits, they appear to be just a suggestion. In all the years I have lived here, I have never seen a radar gun in southern Quintana Roo. I think it is a judgment call on the part of the police and a call they seldom apparently make because people drive way too fast here. Not a good practice for people who already drive badly and do so in cars with worn out tires that they can’t afford to replace.
It must also be legal, at least for taxis anyway, that if your car is faster off the red light than the others, you can go straight from either the right or the left turn lane. I think the same rule applies if you are turning and the proper turn lane is full. Apparently you can, if you are fast enough anyway, turn across the straight moving lanes and beat the other cars to the turn, even though you are in the opposite turn lane. Happens all the time when I’m going straight at a traffic light, so it must be legal???
And speaking of taxis, nowhere in Mexico will you realize how important drivers education is more than when you are riding in a taxi. I’m lucky, I live in a small town, where there is no need to drive fast or crazy. But these days, when I go to the cities, I usually taxi around town and it is always an interesting trip. It is cheaper than gas and although my personal safety is a bit more in question, my truck’s safety is much more assured when it is parked. A good doctor is easy to find here but someone that won’t rip you off of some bad paint and body work is another matter. Taxi drivers just have one rule; get there anyway you can and do it the fastest possible way. That can include abrupt turns onto uncrowded side streets that allow them to reach top speeds unencumbered by stop signs and traffic lights, driving along sidewalks or going the wrong way down one way streets because, “it’s no problem, nobody is using the street right now.”
And don’t get me started about double parking! I do notice that this is limited to the drivers of the really nice cars only. I see old beaters double parked while the driver goes in for “uno momento” about as often as I see Escalades and Lexus’ actually parked in legal parking spaces, which is seldom. It could also be that only the beautiful people can afford the “double parking permit” that they must have since the police seem to never say a thing. Could also be they would like to write them tickets but just can’t find a place to park??
Having said all that, I think it would be proper to finally thank Coach Hart, my drivers ed teacher, for a job well done. All this time I thought he took the job to get some overtime pay and could have cared less if we learned to actually drive. I can see now I was wrong. He did not fall asleep while we drove because he was bored, hung over or could care less. He fell asleep because he knew he was safe with such a fine driving machine like me behind the wheel!
So the next time your 15 year old complains about drivers education, bring them to Mexico and strap into the taxi in Cancun and tell the driver to take them to the hotel zone. It just takes about 10 minutes, which is about all it takes to make most appreciate the wonderful job our driver’s education does. They will arrive with a whole new respect for the driving laws we have and why they need to stay awake during driver’s education class!