Driving’s a great way to see Brazil and get to its stunning beaches and most scenic parts, but be aware of some of the dangers… 

Driving hazards
Almost 40,000 people die on Brazil’s roads every year. Most of the deaths are causes by drunk or reckless drivers and the less than safe roads.

Drink driving has always been one of the biggest causes of accidents, but new Brazilian laws don’t allow you to drive even if you’ve only had the smallest amount of alcohol – you’re only allowed to drive with a maximum blood alcohol limit of 0.2g/l which takes into account trace amounts of the spirit found in mouthwashes.

That means that if you’ve only had a glass of wine or a single beer, you could be over the limit. And the more alcohol you’ve been drinking before driving, the bigger your fine will be if you’re caught by the police. This new law has helped bring down the number of alcohol-related deaths, but they are still tragically common. Try to avoid driving on public or national holidays when the locals will be out partying before getting into a car.

It’s not that Brazil’s road laws aren’t on par with those in Western Europe, it’s just that so many people ignore them. Drivers tend to respect speeding limits where they know there will be cameras. Brazilian motorists have been known to change lanes without warning, fail to stop at pedestrian crossings and swerve suddenly to overtake other cars. Notoriously, they don’t always keep a big enough space between cars either which often leads to collisions.
Later on at night, the motorways can become a playground for racers who blatantly flout speed rules and drive dangerously fast. The motorbike drivers are not much better than the car users, and often attempt daring manoeuvres to beat the traffic.

The situation is particularly bad in the more rural areas where the roads are less safe (often containing huge potholes), the nearest medical help may be far away and driving conditions become even more difficult as not all roads are well lit after dark. What’s more, drivers could encounter wild livestock roaming the roads or pedestrians who have learned to ignore traffic signs just like the drivers. Question marks have also been raised about the safety of cars manufactured in Brazil, with high mechanical failure rates posing even more risks. All this makes for a dangerous cocktail.

Car theft
Because the weather is so hot in Brazil and not all cars come with air conditioning, it’s easy for thieves to target vehicles which have stopped at a traffic light or for the driver to pop into a shop.
It’s always advisable to keep your doors locked and your windows closed at all times (especially when stopping at a red light) and remain vigilant. When you’re parked, keep your valuables hidden if you must leave them in your car.
Avoid getting lost and becoming an easy target by planning your route before you set off and having a detailed road map of Brazil in front of you. This is especially important if you’re exploring the more remote parts of the country where road signs can suddenly tail off, leaving you to fend for yourself.

If you’re in an accident
Brazilian road tax payments cover drivers for limited third party insurance, but take out your own private insurance policy as well so you’ll be covered for anything from auto glass replacement to more serious damage to the car.
If you get hit by another vehicle, try to get these details before they drive off:

  • The car’s registration number, make, model and  colour
  • The driver’s name, address, identity card number (if they’re a local) and telephone number
  • The driver’s insurance details in case you want to make a claim

If the accident is serious and you need to call for help urgently, have the federal highway police’s emergency number (191) and the ambulances and fire brigade’s number (193) handy in case your mind draws a blank.

What’s been your experience of driving in Brazil? 


Jean Lou Laborte said...

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