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  1. #1
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    Default The Gringo Report Dec. 5 2014

    It is just not in the Dominican Republic. It's all over the place; in our home country, in India, Greece, Indonesia, Mexico everywhere. We tend to focus on the DR because this is where we choose to live and play. When we talk about it we tend to be overly harsh and critical because we are comparing apples and oranges as foreigners tend to do. We draw on our lifetime of experiences amassed in the place where we have spent the most time. We are biased. Our observations are none the less valid due to this bias but our ability see the reality on one hand and completely ignore it on the other is simply amazing. Probably a good case study for a university level psychology course.

    This piece isn't so much about a single issue but is in a much broader sense a commentary on our ability to make, accept and justify bad decisions. We know that driving a vehicle is the single biggest risk we take everyday. Our chances of dying on any given day take a significant jump the instant we place our mug of java in the cup holder, turn the key in the ignition and depart our driveways. Heck, some of us don't get out of our driveways before running over our own kids, their bikes or the family pet. More people are killed each year while operating a vehicle on this planet than those that slip and fall in the bathtub (which is a remarkably high number btw). We see the reports on the nightly news and hear about the horrors on the the hourly traffic reports provided by our favorite radio stations while we are out and about. We know, every year in the USA hundreds of thousands of drivers are involved in crashes for a multitude of reasons. We know that many tens of thousands of people die every year on the roads at home and many more are serious injured or maimed for life. This is at home! A place that we are using as a reference when comparing the drivers and driving conditions here in the DR.

    People make life and death decisions everyday. When we cross the street, those of us who aren't obsessed with the newest text received on our cell phone usually look both ways before stepping off the curb. We do it so often that it is more of a reflex than an actual conscious action. Our heads may swivel left to right, but do we actually register the oncoming traffic or is our mind elsewhere? At home it is generally a safe bet that a driver will stop before consciously electing to hit a pedestrian. This may or may not be a safe assumption elsewhere. Here in the DR chances are better than good that drivers won't stop. Stopping in traffic in the DR is a hazard for any driver at the best of times. Suddenly stopping in traffic is almost a guarantee that muchacho behind you is going to nail your tail probably sending you right into that which you stopped to avoid.

    In our home countries with all of our driver education, licensing, high insurance rates and yes our sanctimonious attitudes, we still have drivers that weave in and out of rush hour traffic to get to work five minutes sooner. We have drivers that drive too fast, pass on curves, follow too closely, drive while impaired and while doing everything else but actually driving with care and attention. Sound familiar, you bet, just like in the DR.

    The difference here is that the frequency of this behavior is greatly increased. Due to the lack of driver education, "defensive driving" not appearing in any Dominican dictionary, rare enforcement of moving violations, poor vehicle maintenance and multitude of other factors, we see more bad driving. At home it may be one driver in a thousand that is a bonehead and a risk to us all. Here in the DR, it is 4 out of 10 that are boneheads. If we are being honest most of us can't drive 10 minutes without shaking our head at some driver for some action we view as being asinine. Sometimes we should be shaking our heads at ourselves for some of the boneheaded sh&t we do behind the wheel.

    Driving everywhere is a risk to life and limb. Driving in the DR is no different. Those that grow up here and deal with the reality on the roads learn and embrace the "system". Experience teaches Dominican drivers how to cope. Many still die because they are boneheads or are the victims of boneheads. Foreigners who transplant themselves here and bring with them the experience of driving anywhere else all ill-prepared to cope in the Dominican Republic. Driving here is like nowhere else. Yes the vehicles work the same and foreigners are competent to operate a vehicle, but the experience needed to make good decisions or recognize potential hazards is sorrowfully lacking. When newcomer foreigners put the key in the ignition, the chances of a collision are so much higher than they were at home. It is a tragedy whenever we read of the death of a foreign driver anywhere in this country. No one should think to themselves that this is anything but predictable. Driving is probably the single most dangerous thing you do everyday. People die doing it and will continue to die or suffer ad infinitum here and at home.

    So here we are. Since not driving is a decision akin to cutting off one's own hand for many of us, how do we survive the reality of the Dominican roads? Well, there are no guarantees. If you drive here, there is a chance that you won't be coming home. You make that decision, accept that risk every time you decide to climb into a car and drive anywhere. Foreigners who are new to the realities of DR driving, should procure a vehicle that they expect to get dented, scraped and otherwise ascetically rearranged. Those who prefer two wheels to four, must start small and work their way up. A 125cc scooter that weighs 300 lbs is much easier to handle stop than a 500lb 250cc motorcycle. No one needs more power in a moto that 250cc. The roads and the driving conditions do not require any more power than that. Going bigger just means going faster and heavier. Both are subject to the laws of diminishing returns.

    You can take a lot of touristico taxis for the cost of a decent used vehicle here and no insurance payments. It's nice to be able to rent a car for those times when you absolutely must go to SD to renew residency or to Ikea for a new bed. For the rest of time, it is probably a really good idea to leave the driving to those that have a lifetime of driving experience here. "They" are better at it than you will ever be. Sorry, I know the truth hurts. Try to latch on to a local taxi driver who does not drive like they have a death wish. Get their cell # and use them exclusively.Your driver works for you. If he is talking on his cell while driving, going too fast for your comfort level, or doing anything that makes you uncomfortable, tell them. They want your continued business and they will very quickly adjust to your preferences.

    I read a post on DR1 this morning about someone expressing an interest in buying a moto, which is the impetus for this post, saying something to the effect, "Santiago to home would be a good first ride". Are you kidding me? A good first ride is 10 minutes from home to the colmado. not a multi-hour journey on some of the busiest roads in the country. One reply suggesting that newbie buddy buy a 600cc plus bike for some anticipated long distance touring is just setting this person up for failure (death and injury). You may be able to handle 600cc's here, but a rider who professes to not having taken even a basic rider safety course should never be allowed to even gaze upon a moto that big here or at home.

    Experience and good decision making takes time to learn here. Even when you master this reality and are the best driver in the country, many decisions on the road are being made by others who are not of your caliber and these decisions over which you have no control can just as easily ruin your day as the decisions you make moment to moment, mile to mile...

    This is not and has never really been an "at home vs the DR discussion". This is a discussion of the realities of driving in the DR for anyone from anywhere else. If you do not view the operation of a motor vehicle as being an inherently dangerous activity at home, then you will not adjust well to driving here where it is downright scary all of the time for those who aren't from here and can't even imagine the stupidity level of many of the the native drivers here.

    When in Rome, do as the Romans do... Foreigners who have adopted the DR driving ways as their own is a discussion for another day.

    Hasta leugo.
    Last edited by Cdn_Gringo; 12-05-2014 at 09:51 AM.

  2. #2
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    I have years of driving motorcycles of all sizes and makes and have taken a motorcycle safety course but I wont drive one here.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cdn_Gringo View Post
    It is just not in the Dominican Republic. It's all over the place; in our home country, in India, Greece, Indonesia, Mexico everywhere. We tend to focus on the DR because this is where we choose to live and play. When we talk about it we tend to be overly harsh and critical because we are comparing apples and oranges as foreigners tend to do. We draw on our lifetime of experiences amassed in the place where we have spent the most time. We are biased. Our observations are none the less valid due to this bias but our ability see the reality on one hand and completely ignore it on the other is simply amazing. Probably a good case study for a university level psychology course.

    This piece isn't so much about a single issue but is in a much broader sense a commentary on our ability to make, accept and justify bad decisions. We know that driving a vehicle is the single biggest risk we take everyday. Our chances of dying on any given day take a significant jump the instant we place our mug of java in the cup holder, turn the key in the ignition and depart our driveways. Heck, some of us don't get out of our driveways before running over our own kids, their bikes or the family pet. More people are killed each year while operating a vehicle on this planet than those that slip and fall in the bathtub (which is a remarkably high number btw). We see the reports on the nightly news and hear about the horrors on the the hourly traffic reports provided by our favorite radio stations while we are out and about. We know, every year in the USA hundreds of thousands of drivers are involved in crashes for a multitude of reasons. We know that many tens of thousands of people die every year on the roads at home and many more are serious injured or maimed for life. This is at home! A place that we are using as a reference when comparing the drivers and driving conditions here in the DR.

    People make life and death decisions everyday. When we cross the street, those of us who aren't obsessed with the newest text received on our cell phone usually look both ways before stepping off the curb. We do it so often that it is more of a reflex than an actual conscious action. Our heads may swivel left to right, but do we actually register the oncoming traffic or is our mind elsewhere? At home it is generally a safe bet that a driver will stop before consciously electing to hit a pedestrian. This may or may not be a safe assumption elsewhere. Here in the DR chances are better than good that drivers won't stop. Stopping in traffic in the DR is a hazard for any driver at the best of times. Suddenly stopping in traffic is almost a guarantee that muchacho behind you is going to nail your tail probably sending you right into that which you stopped to avoid.

    In our home countries with all of our driver education, licensing, high insurance rates and yes our sanctimonious attitudes, we still have drivers that weave in and out of rush hour traffic to get to work five minutes sooner. We have drivers that drive too fast, pass on curves, follow too closely, drive while impaired and while doing everything else but actually driving with care and attention. Sound familiar, you bet, just like in the DR.

    The difference here is that the frequency of this behavior is greatly increased. Due to the lack of driver education, "defensive driving" not appearing in any Dominican dictionary, rare enforcement of moving violations, poor vehicle maintenance and multitude of other factors, we see more bad driving. At home it may be one driver in a thousand that is a bonehead and a risk to us all. Here in the DR, it is 4 out of 10 that are boneheads. If we are being honest most of us can't drive 10 minutes without shaking our head at some driver for some action we view as being asinine. Sometimes we should be shaking our heads at ourselves for some of the boneheaded sh&t we do behind the wheel.

    Driving everywhere is a risk to life and limb. Driving in the DR is no different. Those that grow up here and deal with the reality on the roads learn and embrace the "system". Experience teaches Dominican drivers how to cope. Many still die because they are boneheads or are the victims of boneheads. Foreigners who transplant themselves here and bring with them the experience of driving anywhere else all ill-prepared to cope in the Dominican Republic. Driving here is like nowhere else. Yes the vehicles work the same and foreigners are competent to operate a vehicle, but the experience needed to make good decisions or recognize potential hazards is sorrowfully lacking. When newcomer foreigners put the key in the ignition, the chances of a collision are so much higher than they were at home. It is a tragedy whenever we read of the death of a foreign driver anywhere in this country. No one should think to themselves that this is anything but predictable. Driving is probably the single most dangerous thing you do everyday. People die doing it and will continue to die or suffer ad infinitum here and at home.

    So here we are. Since not driving is a decision akin to cutting off one's own hand for many of us, how do we survive the reality of the Dominican roads? Well, there are no guarantees. If you drive here, there is a chance that you won't be coming home. You make that decision, accept that risk every time you decide to climb into a car and drive anywhere. Foreigners who are new to the realities of DR driving, should procure a vehicle that they expect to get dented, scraped and otherwise ascetically rearranged. Those who prefer two wheels to four, must start small and work their way up. A 125cc scooter that weighs 300 lbs is much easier to handle stop than a 500lb 250cc motorcycle. No one needs more power in a moto that 250cc. The roads and the driving conditions do not require any more power than that. Going bigger just means going faster and heavier. Both are subject to the laws of diminishing returns.

    You can take a lot of touristico taxis for the cost of a decent used vehicle here and no insurance payments. It's nice to be able to rent a car for those times when you absolutely must go to SD to renew residency or to Ikea for a new bed. For the rest of time, it is probably a really good idea to leave the driving to those that have a lifetime of driving experience here. "They" are better at it than you will ever be. Sorry, I know the truth hurts. Try to latch on to a local taxi driver who does not drive like they have a death wish. Get their cell # and use them exclusively.Your driver works for you. If he is talking on his cell while driving, going too fast for your comfort level, or doing anything that makes you uncomfortable, tell them. They want your continued business and they will very quickly adjust to your preferences.

    I read a post on DR1 this morning about someone expressing an interest in buying a moto, which is the impetus for this post, saying something to the effect, "Santiago to home would be a good first ride". Are you kidding me? A good first ride is 10 minutes from home to the colmado. not a multi-hour journey on some of the busiest roads in the country. One reply suggesting that newbie buddy buy a 600cc plus bike for some anticipated long distance touring is just setting this person up for failure (death and injury). You may be able to handle 600cc's here, but a rider who professes to not having taken even a basic rider safety course should never be allowed to even gaze upon a moto that big here or at home.

    Experience and good decision making takes time to learn here. Even when you master this reality and are the best driver in the country, many decisions on the road are being made by others who are not of your caliber and these decisions over which you have no control can just as easily ruin your day as the decisions you make moment to moment, mile to mile...

    This is not and has never really been an "at home vs the DR discussion". This is a discussion of the realities of driving in the DR for anyone from anywhere else. If you do not view the operation of a motor vehicle as being an inherently dangerous activity at home, then you will not adjust well to driving here where it is downright scary all of the time for those who aren't from here and can't even imagine the stupidity level of many of the the native drivers here.

    When in Rome, do as the Romans do... Foreigners who have adopted the DR driving ways as their own is a discussion for another day.

    Hasta leugo.
    I am not sure what possessed you to editorialize this subject. Many of those who drive in the DR are bad drivers because:

    Lack of proper skills

    No defensive driving skills

    Distracted easily while driving

    Disregarding local conditions and signs

    Few concerns for right of way

    Few concerns for Pedestrians

    Speed to fast for the current conditions

    Give a **** factor extremely low

    Drive at your own risk. Driving in the any city in the DR is like being in a real video game.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob saunders View Post
    I have years of driving motorcycles of all sizes and makes and have taken a motorcycle safety course but I wont drive one here.
    I totally agree, having ridden pretty much everything under 1500 cc's I will never ride a moto in this country. My current wheels are a toyota hilux surf - my 3.0 4x4 diesel tank with a few scratches, dings and lots of Heft.

  5. #5
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    Buster Blowhard nails it again

    even the local contrarian, amigo LTSteve seems to be on board

    he's just venting.... perhaps offering insight to others..... perhaps not

    I know this.... he has a pasola, he drives from Sosua to Cabrete....... con helmet

    he's not just talking thru his helmet.... he actually lives it.....

    remember - he has cut all cords back 'from whence he came'

    he's in the deep end - not the wading pool or just peeking over the edge

    working on his Espanol, verifying beer quality, befriending his amigo 'Bailey'

    this is 'live action' stuff...... your report from the front line...

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