Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Driving Miss Mendoza

So, we broke down and bought a car – we keep telling ourselves the only reason we bought the car was to ensure that we got Mia to school on time each morning, but the truth is that we like the freedom that comes from having a car (and we just couldn’t afford to have Janalee walk past all of the clothing stores everyday). So, it seemed cheaper to buy a car (that is a lot of shirts at 20 pesos a pop).

A picture of our car is on the right. It is a Suzuki Fun, which is essentially the exact same car as a Chevrolet Corsa. I took the picture from above because it makes the car look much bigger (muy grande even) than it actually is. While not a big car it is a fun car to own in Mendoza (you knew I was going to say the Fun is fun at some point so I got it out of the way early on). In truth I don’t think we would want anything larger here – it would be too big of a target. Which gets me to the point of this blog – driving in Mendoza.

Now that I drive regularly I have a much better sense of why the State Department lists auto accidents as the number one health threat to Americans traveling to Argentina. Driving here is nuts. So, here are my tidbits for anyone hoping to drive in Argentina:

Pedestrians – in the U.S. pedestrians have the right of way. In Argentina pedestrians have the right to get out of the way and they should know enough to exercise that right. If you are walking don’t think a crosswalk means you will be safe – it only means drivers know where you are (for a better shot at you). Janalee has gotten to be so adept at not stopping for pedestrians that the other day when she nearly ran over an older couple and they had the temerity to holler “this is a cross walk” she hollered back “stupid tourists”. True story.

Stop Signs – Don’t stop at stop signs. I am not at all certain what stop signs are meant to signify, but if you stop at one you are very likely to be hit by the car behind you. The correct procedure is to slow down and look for oncoming traffic. If the oncoming traffic is right on top of you hit the brakes and hope the person behind you doesn’t think you should go. If the oncoming traffic is a little way down the road slow down and place approximately 2/3 of your car in the oncoming lane and gun the engine until you can go (you could also honk the horn and scream at them for being slow).

Stoplights – Stop for red lights. A yellow light also means stop. When the folks driving in the oncoming lane see that your light has turned yellow they start going – regardless of whether or not there is someone already in the lane. By the time a red light has turned green the first row of cars has already crossed the lane. If you try to shoot through a yellow you will probably hit two or three cars, maybe a bicyclist and if you are having really bad luck that day a couple of dogs.

My advice, don’t drive in Mendoza until you have had a chance to watch the process up close and personal. If you must drive in Mendoza it is important to practice OFFENSIVE driving (take that anyway you want). Really, if you are going to come and visit we will drive you – it is probably more frightening at first, but we have a slight advantage because we have some experience.


At 3:23 PM , Anonymous Kris Mac said...

The way you took the picture of the car it looks like it has been rolled into a ravine by accident. Please don't do that!


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