Not that long ago, I wrote a short story for one of my newsletters telling you how many stop signs I ran every day on my way to work and back. Well, not any more. Fines have been increased and patrols are now citing people for running stop signs, not using blinkers, even parking in the wrong direction on the side of the street – what nerve! Actually, it has been a long time coming and our little town is growing up from the very lax fishing village, into a real-life small city. I now obey traffic laws just as I would if I were driving in Phoenix or Tucson, and it’s really not much of an inconvenience at all. It’s probably for the best anyway because not everyone is as conscientious and I have probably avoided an accident or two by stopping at a stop sign when the car coming the other direction decided that they didn’t need to.
One thing to remember is that the sign doesn’t necessarily have to exist in order to be enforced. A good example are the stop signs that are laying in the road, bent to point the other direction, or just missing completely. If you can tell that there are stop signs on the other 3 corners, best stop whether there is a sign there or not. If the car in front of you stops before proceeding, you better do the same.
Speed limits seem to be fairly arbitrary. Most areas of town don’t have speed limit signs and my best advice is to just go with the flow of traffic. That way you are not only driving more safely, you are also avoiding drawing the attention to yourself that could get you a ticket.
Above are some Mexican traffic signs. Most are pretty self-explanatory, some are a bit strange, and a good number of them I have never even seen. Below are the current fines levied by Puerto Peñasco courts for various infractions. It is always recommended to go to the station to pay your fine. Do not pay the officer who stops you. Also, if you pay your fines within 24 hours, you will get a 50% discount. Definitely worth getting there right away to handle it.
I especially like the one entitled “Other Behaviors or Actions Not Covered by Sanctions”. Guess that’s easier than adding another page of citations. That one just edged out “Driving the Vehicle with People Peeking Out” as my favorite. I almost laughed out loud when I visualized that one.
Another thing that has been changing for the better is the reducing number of police asking for a “mordida” (bite) bribe instead of going to the station to pay a fine as is the correct method of handling a traffic infraction. As stated above, always insist on paying your ticket at the main police station. Paying bribes only perpetrates the problem.
If you are subjected to an officer requesting a bribe, be polite but ask him to please give you a written ticket to take to the station. If they insist on receiving payment then and there, request a receipt. Also write down the area of town that you’re in, the time of day, and the number of the patrol car. Don’t be rude or demanding or you may end up in more trouble than you started with. You should then report the incident to the comandante at the main police station.
Luckily, this has become the exception rather than the rule. Through stepped up training and strict oversight, the frequency of the mordida has gone way down in Puerto Peñasco.
Sonoyta, on the other hand, is still having a bit more of a problem with officers pulling people over for “speeding” and asking for their “mordida”. I have been pulled over only once in all the trips that I have made but I knew that I hadn’t been speeding and I immediately knew what the officer wanted. I actually did insist on going to the station to pay, which I did. The ticket was bogus but at least the officer didn’t get his “little bite” from me. The best advice for passing through is to do the “Sonoyta Crawl”, meaning to drive very slowly through town. Since my “ticket”, I have done this and have never had another problem.
The good thing is that the Sonoyta Municipal government is working very hard to crack down on the problem, just as Puerto Peñasco has done. The Mayor issued a statement in response to complaints from travelers and recommends that, if you have been asked for a bribe, you should report it. Here is the contact information – Please try to get the car number, location, and time of day: 651-512-1172 or 651-101-7145 or email email@example.com.
Overall, it isn’t a huge problem, but you can all help by not cooperating if it does happen to you. Things have been getting much better – let’s keep the momentum going in the right direction and just play by the rules.
This article is brought to you by the Sonoran Resorts Sales Team, www.sonoranresorts.mx, Jim Ringquist, Director of Sales and Marketing.