Friday, December 1, 2023

We asked about safety on Mexico’s highways. Here’s what readers said

After 76% of respondents to a social media survey said that they felt unsafe traveling on Mexico’s highways, Mexico News Daily asked readers to weigh in on the issue via last week’s MND Poll.

The results showed that readers feel somewhat safer than respondents to the first survey – 57% said they felt unsafe traveling on the nation’s highways, while 32% said they didn’t. Another 10% of respondents were undecided.

In the poll’s comments section, some readers elaborated on their experiences driving on Mexico’s roads and/or shared their advice: Here’s what they said (responses lightly edited for clarity).

“If the federales don’t hit you up for bribes at a roadblock, the bandits might,” wrote Ken Terrill before warning motorists to not travel on Mexico’s highways at night “under any circumstances.”

Similarly, Brock Huffman, an American who operates a birdwatching company in Chiapas, said that he never travels at night and tries to avoid secondary roads.

He also said he checks in with contacts in towns toward which he is traveling in order to be informed of any imminent dangers.

“So far, we have had no problems in the nine years we have been in business,” Huffman wrote.

Diego Valdez said that he has traveled all over Mexico for 40 years and never had a bad experience.

“However, I always use common sense like not driving at night or on secondary roads. I am aware that crime and corruption have increased dramatically and thus I also increase my caution. I am hopeful that the new National Guard will . . . reduce crime and violence,” he wrote.

Doug H. said that he has traveled over 200,000 kilometers on motorcycle through 28 Mexican states using mainly secondary roads over the past 20 years and “only ever had a few bad experiences, a couple of times in Mexico City and in Cuernavaca.”

“. . . The highways are safe if you drive sensibly,” he wrote.

Major highways are the safest.
Major highways seen as safer than secondary ones.

Other readers were more forthcoming in describing the negative experiences they or their family members have had on Mexico’s highways.

“Our niece and her husband were carjacked at 9:30am on a highway in Puebla,” wrote a reader who identified himself only as Eric.

“Thank God only their car and jewelry were taken, not their lives . . .” he added.

“After many vacations in Mexico without incident day or night, other than twice being rousted by local cops, my wife and I retired to Mexico three years ago. We have learned, however, to adhere to unwritten rules about traveling on highways and toll roads during the day only . . .”

A reader who identified himself as George recalled being in “bumper-to-bumper traffic” in Nuevo Laredo while heading for Texas when he was pulled over for “speeding” and issued an on-the-spot fine for 1,500 pesos.

“That worked out to 500 pesos each for the three transit cops so they could soon head to the cantina and have a good time,” he wrote tongue-in-cheek.

Richard Roussin said he feels unsafe on Mexico’s highways “because our country is blatantly being robbed by caseta [toll booth] owners.”

“. . . I’ve been robbed repeatedly . . . while trying to pay for my one-axle trailer and being forced to pay as a two-axle trailer. Thieves with a permission to abuse,” he wrote.

Finally, an almost decade-long resident of Mexico charged that “one of the stupidest things a gringo can do is drive through anywhere in Guerrero or Michoacán at night in an expensive car.”

“Also, I’ve learned that you must stop at any kind of roadblock and be ready with a smile . . . as you hand over 20 pesos if they are not police or military. Twenty pesos . . . is cheap security when traveling through any part of Mexico . . . The safest thing any gringo can do . . . is look very poor and humble, not rich and arrogant . . .” Rusty Hill wrote.

For more advice and tales about traveling on Mexico’s highways (and living to tell the story), check out Carlisle Johnson’s musings on his various cannonball runs through the country.

Mexico News Daily

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