Some thoughts after a year of driving in Mexico
I am an Irish guy but I've been in Mexico for a while now and driving here compared to Europe is very different. So here are some things I find odd.
I remember driving in Ireland for about 4 years on a provisional license (basically a learner's permit) which didn't allow you to drive without a fully licensed driver beside you. I had a few close calls with some police being nice and letting me off the hook but in general this is driving in Europe, strict and enforced laws on everything. It is basically the same in the US, everything is heavily regulated and you'll get a ticket for driving 2 mph over the speed limit with an ice cream cone in your hand. In Europe it's worse because not only will you have to pay a fine, they can and will take your license, your car, your sense of self-worth and your girlfriend if you are caught doing 10 mph over the speed limit. This leads me on to the magical land of free happy driving that is Mexico.
Let me know in the comments where you think is the best place to drive
I've been driving in Mexico now for about 18 months on and off, what I've realised is that when it comes to driving common sense is really the rule of the road. The second thing is that most people can't drive properly, especially when they are on motorbikes. The final thing I've learned is that rules are only rules under two circumstances, you get caught and you can't immediately give the "fine" to the fine gentleman who has caught you doing whatever it is you were doing.
Here are some of the anecdotes from things that I have noticed while here.
One note before I start, I'm not endorsing any of this abhorrent behavior and also in the bigger cities, especially Mexico City, the rules are definitely there and enforced.
If you are caught speeding in Jalisco in Mexico you will likely end up getting a find of about $100 USD or less, if you can't just give the police a percentage of that and just drive on your way. The thing is though, I don't understand what it would take to get caught. In 18 months I have never once seen a speed camera, a speed trap or in fact a police car itself that wasn't speeding. I know for example that a close friend here is able to do his trip to work on a 1000 cc Motorbike in 9 mins, it is a 30 km trip, that averages his speeds at 122 mph. When I asked if he'd ever been stopped, he laughed and continued drinking his Tequila.
I've never been below the speed limit in this country, other than when I was in my beloved pickup (read below) but that was because it physically cannot break most speeding limits. It seems then it's very difficult to get caught unless you're passing at 200 mph in a Lambo and it's obvious.
Insurance, License Plates & Licenses
So in Ireland, if you are caught driving without a license, insurance or tax on your car, you might as well mow down some pedestrians before pulling over and exiting the car because you will likely be thrown in prison. In this state at least, insurance is not a legal requirement and having a driving license doesn't seem to be either. I've never gotten into trouble for driving without one even without being asked. Maybe that is just the Irish luck but on the other hand, even if you don't have a license, in most states its a simple $150 (USD) fine.
Now the even funnier part is when you live in a small town, it's much easier to do something which I find really funny. In Ireland, you pay tax on a car each year but the license plates on the car are fixed from registration to scrap yard. In Mexico you must register for new license plates for the car every time it is sold and then pay a tax on these plates each year. So it is not uncommon when you buy a new car to not have plates for a while. I however managed to drive for 6 months (until I flipped the car in a crash, a story I will tell later) without issue. Crazy? No?
I know this is a touchy subject, so feel free to shout at me in the comments, but drink driving in Mexico is so normal it kind of scares me. Now I also hate the polar opposite of this in Ireland where it is completely zero tolerance, I do think you should be allowed to have one social bottle of beer and still drive, if you are impaired after one bottle, the larger issue is that you need to sort that issue out before you get bullied by the local youths.
In Mexico, there are drive through off-licenses, so it isn't uncommon to have a beer while driving to your house after buying a crate of beer for safe consumption at home. I had never seen this until travelling here and it still amuses me today. I had witnessed people drinking and then driving, but never drinking WHILE driving.
The problem comes with the social norms however and I will be completely honest and say I've done this on occasion when I was first here. I know it's rampant in the US also, but I've seen people here drink an entire bottle of tequila and then leave without anyone saying a word. It's just normal. This will change but that is how it is.
If you had a super car, this place would be heaven. Mexico is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and the people here are amazing, however I do think, maybe some limits are good. The problem is, where is the line? Let me know in the comments.