I have written before about driving in the Dominican Republic, and I know I have been pretty critical of the way drivers here operate their vehicles. Now I must admit that I didn’t know what I was talking about. I was writing from the perspective of a person who has done a lot of driving in Canada and the United States, and knows the rules of the road in those countries. I had mistakenly accepted the myth that the D.R. has official driving laws, but nobody obeys them.
There are rules, but they are not official. They are known, through some mystic process, only to Dominican drivers and foreigners who have been here long enough to learn them. Here they are, listed in no particular order of importance.
#1. Use your horn a lot, for any reason or no reason at all. Blast the guy in front of you for stopping for a red light. In a traffic jam, lean on that horn and add all the racket you can to the general confusion. It won’t help one little bit, but you’ll have the satisfaction of making yourself heard (maybe); something like a child throwing a tantrum.
#2 Always drive at top speed. Patience is a sign of weakness.
#3. If there is a vehicle in front of you, pass it. It doesn’t matter if you have to go around it, over it, under it, or through it; you must get in front of it. Even if you are a guagua driver and you are going to pull over and stop as soon as you have passed the other vehicle.
#4. If you are a male driver, never let a female driver pass you. A real man can’t put up with that kind of nonsense.
#5. Don’t make left turns. The driver behind you will try to pass on your left while you are doing it, because God forbid he should have to slow down or stop while you make your turn. Pull over to the right and wait until the road is clear for five miles in either direction before you turn; OR, get into the wrong lane half a mile before your turn and make your left from there.
#6. If the driver ahead of you is making a left turn, ram him.
#7. If you are coming out of a driveway or sidestreet, and the only vehicle coming is a motorbike, pull out in front of him. In a collision between a car and a motorbike, the motorbike is going to lose, so obviously it’s up to him to stop.
#8. Ignore traffic lights. They’re only there to impress the tourists.
#9. If you are in a traffic jam, and you see an open lane which might possibly be used to unsnarl the mess, block it as quickly as possible. And don’t forget that horn.
#10. If the vehicle in front of you is passing a vehicle in front of him, pass them both so that you have three vehicles side by side in a line across the highway, going in the same direction. If you’re a publico driver, this is a great way to scare the hell out of any tourists in your car.
#11. When driving at night keep your highbeams on all the time. If drivers of oncoming cars find them too bright, well, that’s what sunglasses are for.
#12. Seatbelts are silly gringo decorations.
#13. If you see that the car you are overtaking is being driven by someone you know, stay alongside him for a few miles so you can have a chat.
#14. Indicator lights are there to warn other drivers of what you intend to do, but since every other driver on the road is an enemy, why should you give them any warnings?
#15. When you park your car, remember that NO PARKING signs do not apply to you personally.
Of course, given the number of motorcycles on the road here, there are some special rules for them, too.
#1. When driving along that stretch of highway which runs through Cabarete, go at your flat out, top speed. It’s your right to endanger yourself and the community; and besides, people love to hear the noise your engine makes when you have the throttle wide open - day or night.
#2. If you see a traffic jam up ahead, just use the sidewalks. If you should run down a pedestrian, it’s his fault for not jumping out of the way quickly enough.
#3. When you park your motorbike, leave it in a place where it will cause the greatest inconvenience; the road, the entrance to a driveway, the doorway of a store, etc.
#4. Hang your helmet on your handlebar so if you have an accident, people will have something to scrape your brains into after they’ve been splattered all over the road.
#5. It is not necessary to repair broken headlights or tail lights. Car drivers should be able to see you in their highbeams, and they generally drive as if you’re not there anyhow.
Oh yes; a driver’s licence is nice, but who really needs one?