While I have never had a bad experience with the local police in and around Puerto Peñasco, I have recently heard some disturbing stories from people who had less-than-wonderful experiences while driving around town. Here are some ideas that may help to make your visit more pleasant.
Pay attention to speed limits, everywhere, but especially in Sonoyta. Remember they are posted in kilometers per hour, rather than miles per hour! For quick reference kilometers are about 2/3 of miles, so 40 km per hour would be about 25 miles per hour.
Watch carefully for stop signs, then come to a FULL stop at each one, even if the locals do not. There are many intersections where one or more of the stop signs is missing; if you seen no sign in your lane, look across the intersection to see if there is a sign for the oncoming traffic to stop. If there is, then you should stop too.
Be over-cautious in high-density areas such as the Malecon or the Cholla Mall. Those are not only commercial areas; many of the vendors live on the premises, so they are residential areas as well. There may be children playing, riding bicycles, even tricycles, in the streets, and like children everywhere, they don’t always watch the traffic. We adults are responsible for the safety of children, even if the children are playing in the street.
We have all seen police cars in normal traffic with emergency lights on when there is no apparent emergency; they don’t seem to be going anywhere fast, but they have their lights flashing. The local drivers seem to ignore them. After driving here since the 1990’s, I still don’t know what to make of this phenomenon! So I do what I was taught in driver education, which is pull over and let them pass me. That way they cannot misinterpret my lack of understanding as disregard for their mission.
Be aware that there is a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving! I think the local police will tell us that the great majority of problems they experience with visitors are alcohol-related. While the local police are sensitive to tourism issues related to drinking and driving, the smart thing for visitors to do is to have a designated driver who drinks no alcohol, hire a cab for your outing, or party at home. Nothing ruins a nice evening out like an arrest for DUI!
Keep a pen and little notebook in your car. If you are stopped by a policeman, before handing over your driver license, car registration, or other documents, ask the policeman his name, his badge number, and his police vehicle number. WRITE THESE DOWN! You could also note the time and location of your stop. I do this no matter where I am – USA or Mexico. If I later want to report either poor or excellent service, I have the information I need. As well, perhaps if a “bad” cop has handed over his name and badge and vehicle numbers, he will be motivated to act appropriately. With luck, and if you are pleasant and respectful to the police, you will get a warning. If you get a ticket, you should follow the policeman to the comandancia to pay the fine. You should neither offer nor agree to pay the policeman on the spot – an upstanding police officer will not ask for money or accept it if offered. Your offering to pay the policeman contributes to the culture of corruption that the local police department has worked so hard to curtail.
The Rocky Point office of Tourism and Visitor Assistance offers bilingual assistance, any time of the night or day, free of charge, to people who need assistance with problems they may encounter while visiting Rocky Point. It probably will not happen, but if you do get into trouble with the police, call 638-386-9081 for help.