Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Observed Traffic Rules of South America

South American Driving Habits

Most countries in South America share a few driving attributes:
  • passing on blind corners
  • passing where there is barely any visible road
Roads were generally in poor condition and speed bumps were frequent yet unmarked.


Chile has the best quality roads observed in South America. Suffers from overuse of road signs especially around road works. Roads have lanes and cars stay in between the lines, indicators and speedometers appear to be fitted to most cars.

In some northern parts of Chile vehicles will actually stop for pedestrians. Don’t rely on this as in Santiago pedestrian crossings are simple decorated pieces of road; to be admired as one speeds through the pesky people walking there.


In theory you need an international driving license in Argentina - the rental car company didn’t bother checking though. Navigating through the large cities is quite scary, as adhering to lanes or speed limits is a foreign concept, once you’re out on the open road driving is very pleasant.
Fortune favors the brave. Most intersections are uncontrolled and he who hesitates gives way. Uncontrolled intersections often seem to have police standing on a corner, just observing the mayhem.
The laws of physics as applied to traffic are specially adapted for Argentina:
Cars with momentum keep their momentum.
Note large trucks will always have momentum.
The family car has been somewhat replaced in Argentina by the family motorcycle. You can often spot three people to a single motorbike.
Railway crossings can be scary - the arm only covers one lane and the drivers have no problem crossing in spite of the lights, bells and lowered arm!


The home of Death Road, Bolivia delivers some very alarming driving experiences. Roads were often gravel and always potholed. As we drove to the Death Road we witnessed an overloaded truck crash into a cliff - due to drivers taking double shifts and drugging up on Coca leaves.

Cars own the road, pedestrians are advised to run. The three or four lane roundabouts are often a safe crossing place as they appear to remain in a constant state of gridlock. In the slow traffic cars get extremely close to touching as they volley for position.

Honking is done regularly to indicate to pedestrians that a car is coming and they had better move. The horn is also used very liberally in an attempt to speed up traffic; the rule of thumb seems to be: when stationary, honk. The exception is when passengers are alighting a colectivo or taxi in the middle of the street, in this case the horn is used in conjunction with a shouting co-driver to attract a new passenger.


No sealed roads anywhere in sight in Peru. The rule of thumb seems to be bigger goes first, stop signs and the occasional traffic lights are only there for decoration.

Plenty of honking occurs although it is much more subdued than in Bolivia. Many vehicles will honk when approaching blind corners on single lane roads, or at intersections, simply to indicate they have no intention of stopping. Also taxis use the horn to attract customers, assuming that if you are walking down the street with hundreds of taxis passing you by you wouldn’t be capable of noticing one without a helpful honk to get your attention..

On the few wide roads cars will stop anywhere and pass anywhere. Three lane roads were often reduced to a single lane or even blocked of completely because of double and triple parked taxis and colectivos.
Peruvian buses and colectivos don’t care too much for seat allocations or maximum number of passengers. A two hour minivan ride wouldn’t really be worth while for the driver without managing to pack 20 paying passengers in. Buses will often have people standing and sitting in the aisles - even on extremely long bus trips.

Have fun!

No comments: