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Tips on driving in Santo Domingo
2002 is a turn-point year for driving in the Dominican Republic. The main highway leading east from Santo Domingo, the Autovia del Este will be completed in the first half of the year, making trips safer and faster. Likewise the new bridge over the Ozama River and Las Americas Expressway entrance will be completed by Spring. This gives the DR several excellent highways to go west (6 de Noviembre Expressway), the Duarte Highway, going north, and the new Autovia del Este going east. 

Driving in Santo Domingo is not much more different than driving in any large city. If you need to get around in the city for a short term, you will be better off taking taxis. If you will be here for a while, or will be heading out of the city, getting behind the wheel is a fun way to see much more. The important thing to remember is to drive on the defensive. Dominican drivers can be aggressive as they inch their way through bottle necks and frequent traffic jams. 

Regardless of the new expressways where cars zooming by at more than 120 kilometers/hour seems the usual, the following tips on driving continue to be valid for driving in the D.R.:

• The Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Public Works are implementing a system of roadsigns. In case of doubt of where you are, as. Take to the roads with map in hand (you can purchase one at Texaco gas stations) and ask every few kilometers or every new town. Dominicans on the street will be happy to guide you. 

• Avoid traveling on Dominican highways at night. Period. Your path may e obstructed by animals, pedestrians or vehicles witho reflectors or lights. 

• If you leave the city early in the morning, keep in mind that those travelling into town have probably not slept. Put your headlights on (low beam) and be alert for any abnormalities, such as zig-zagging. 

• Experts have proven that a vehicle traveling from 80-130 kms. will arrive only six minutes earlier than one maintaining a continuous speed of 80 kms per hour. Most accidents occur when picking up speed “to make up for lost time.” 

• When caught in a political caravan or traffic jam, get out your favorite music or turn on the radio — and relax.

• Exercise special care when driving in the rain. Visibility may be reduced to a dangerous 35 meters on highway sand highways bordering the water become extra dangerous. Stick to 60 kilometers per hour when driving at night on a rainy day along the slippery Autopista Las Americas which leads East from Santo Domingo. Avoid driving into any puddle of water where your visibility will be affected. Better still, leave tomorrow instead. 

• The new thoroughfares with their double lanes in both directions have solved the problem of blinding lights. Nevertheless, if you are traveling on one of the secondary roads keep in mind that many drivers believe that high beams are necessary, especially when other drivers are blinding them in return. Do not interpret this as rudeness. Just try not to crash until you regain your sight. 

• The most dangerous vehicles are trucks loaded with farm produce, mini-buses, and patanas. The latter are trucks loaded with containers or large cisterns. The unwritten law of the road is that they have the right of way. Many who didn’t believe that didn’t live to prove they were right. 

• Accidents frequently occur on hills, where there are two lanes going up and just one coming down. Impatient drivers descending may “borrow” a lane from those ascending —leading to a sudden crash.

• To facilitate the flow of traffic, the traffic authorities and the municipality have agreed on one way streets. This could mean you are a block away from where you are headed but have to go around the block to get there. Have patience. The good news is that most of the one way streets, at least in Santo Domingo, have signs that indicate this. Regardless, always check the direction of parked cars or better still, watch the flow of traffic. 

• A green light may mean “Stop” if there is a police officer beneath it helping to “speed” things up. Before speeding across a street, double check to see if there is a green-shirted (AMET) officer substituting for the traffic light, regardless of whether this is working or not. Body posture is often more important than hand gestures in interpreting the officer’s intentions. If his body is sideways to you, you can generally go, while a full frontal stance usually means that you should stop. 

• If a stop light is not working, do not interpret this as if you have right of way. It is possible that it is not working on your side, but on the other side the drivers have a green light. Proceed with extreme caution. 
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