Traffic Tickets in Mexico
If you're driving to Mexico with the idea of fewer traffic laws and more relaxed enforcement, you're in for a surprise. Between unexpected road conditions and a different legal philosophy, running a red light or exceeding the speed limit could turn into the adventure you'll share at parties for years to come.
First things first - Each U.S. vehicle needs a Mexican policy -- otherwise, Mexican authorities can make things very difficult. The easiest way to acquire your Mexican insurance is to purchase a policy online before you leave on your trip to Mexico. Get a quote and purchase your policy
Here's a breakdown (in U.S. dollars) of Mexican traffic fines:
- Running a red light $23 - $69
- Speeding $46 - 139
- Driving without a seat belt $25 - $46
- Using a cell phone while driving $46
- Driving without valid license or registration $23 - $46
- Not giving a pedestrian the right-of-way $23+
- Driving in the passing lane $23+
- Double parking $ 23+
- Parking in red zone $ 23+
- Expired meter $11+
- DUI $139 - 185 (plus jail time)
Be on the lookout for vehicles without functioning brake lights, and remember that many Mexican drivers don't bother using turn signals. Watch out for badly paved roads and, believe it or not, livestock. About 40% of traffic accidents in rural Mexico involve free-range animals mixing it up with cars and trucks. You can read more driving tips on our Mexico driving safety page.
Thanks to the illegal drug trade around the cities and along the U.S. border, and also to civil unrest in the State of Chiapas, you'll find that "Mexican authorities" often include military troops as well as Federal Highway Patrol (Policia Federal de Caminos) and local police agencies. With public safety as their primary concern, they rigorously enforce traffic laws, so change your scofflaw ways before driving to Mexico! Be safe and sensible behind the wheel, and you should be okay.
If you find yourself pulled over by Federales, remember that Mexican law is Napoleonic -- you're assumed guilty until proven innocent, and the arresting officer is your prosecutor, judge and jury. He might impound your car and put you in jail if you're uninsured, show attitude or act suspiciously. But not to worry -- your Mexican car insurance gives you the right to a claims adjuster and attorney, and the fees you pay on toll roads give you additional coverage. At the very least, you have to prove your financial responsibility when stopped, and business is often settled on the spot. (Yes, your Mexican insurance and legal specialists will come to you.) Which means leaving the scene of the accident really complicates your situation, so by all means, don't do it. Please read our page on how to report an auto insurance claim in Mexico.
If you're fined, ask for a written ticket so you'll have evidence and can contest it later if you feel you were treated unfairly. That ticket lets you pay a municipal judge at the local police station or, in some cases, through your local Mexican consulate when you're back in the States.
La Mordida, aka, Graft, Corruption and Good Old-Fashioned Bribery
Bribery, also called la mordida (the bite), is deeply ingrained in Mexican civic life. Traditionally, it's worth a few hundred pesos here and there to streamline things. Although an estimated 56% of traffic violations are resolved with mordidas (about $11 U.S. on average), places like Mexico City and Tijuana are working to eliminate this practice by increasing officers' salaries, installing traffic cameras and prosecuting drivers who hope to buy their way out of a ticket. Play by the official rules. And if you believe you're the victim of police misconduct, contact the Sindacatura, a government agency that investigates these complaints.