Driving Rules are Loose in the DR

Flying along

You’ve probably gathered by now that the driving rules are loose in the DR. I’m learning to anticipate what the Dominican driver is likely to do, however, and my friend is able to guess what Google Maps is really suggesting. But what motorcyclists do on city streets here–and on a regular basis–defies imagination.

Recently while driving near Barahona, two boys on motorcycles came flying toward us in bird formation, tummies on the seats, legs straight out behind, hands on the handlebars. Of course no helmets or goggles. They were racing each other doing about 50 or 60 mph. One pebble under a tire would have meant a wipeout. The street was lined on both sides with people cheering them on – largely young men.

Hit and Run Rules

When we arrived, a local physician advised us in the strongest terms to never stop for an accident. Whether they hit you or you hit them, it doesn’t matter. Don’t stop. Go straight to the next police station for help. If you stop to help the person yourself, a crowd will gather around you that can do severe damage. The foreigner is always guilty.

I was aghast. How can you make yourself leave the scene of an accident? That definition of criminality is bred deep in my bones.

Towing an occupied wheel-chair

Towing an occupied wheel-chair

We recently spoke with some volunteers who handle annual donations of thousands of wheelchairs to the DR, then train the recipients to use them correctly. I told them about the crazy motorcycle stunts we’d seen. They said there was little need by motorbike accident victims for wheelchairs because their accidents were largely fatal. The DR is reputed to have the second highest motorcycle death rate in the world. What a waste!

Transporting your family

Hauling everything you own

Popping a Wheelie anywhere you like

Astounding Driving Event

Our Saturday morning expedition began early when the traffic was light. Happily the road was well paved, although too curving for cruise control. We felt more confident than ever before, now that our skills in navigation and road negotiation were coming along nicely.

Suddenly a Porsche sports car whipped past us with a roar. Glistening white. Gorgeous piece of technology that had to be doing over a hundred miles an hour. A moment later a shiny yellow Porsche zipped by us at the same speed. And then a gleaming black Porsche. So beautiful. All in a chase pattern. Deadly speed.

My heart rate accelerated. Just the sound would do it!

So, we trundled along in Rhonda-with-a-T-bone, musing about how we’d seen the same three cars making loud vroom noises in the Colonial Zone a few weeks ago, the streets too congested for quick movement. Cars so gorgeous I wanted to reach out and caress them. The streets are narrow in the old city, and we had been close enough to see that the drivers were male and probably in their early thirties.

Behind us again

I don’t know when the three Porsches turned off the road so that once again they were behind us.

I was traveling in the left lane enjoying the weather, a perfect mixture of clouds and sun with no wind. A truck in the right lane ahead of me was going considerably slower than I was, and a dark grey SUV in front of me was half on the shoulder and half in my lane, going about the same speed as the truck.

Dominican drivers do weird things like that on major highways, so no problem. Since the truck was still several car lengths ahead, normally I’d have swerved to the right to miss the SUV, driven on past the truck, and thought nothing of it. I’ve done it hundreds of times here. But yesterday I cut my speed and followed along behind the SUV.

Suddenly with a roar like a huge bang, the white Porsche popped in front of me from the right lane through the pocket between the SUV and the truck. A flash of a second later the yellow Porsche followed. And a moment after, a streak of black Porsche.

If I had passed that SUV we would have been dead center in a 4-car heap of twisted metal.

I know that wrecks happen every day to really good people. Some might dismiss this event as luck, or karma, or coincidence. But I thank my God for His tender mercy.

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