Transportation in the Dominican Republic

By Phil Sylvester , Travel Insights Editor

A USA TODAY analysis of State Department data in late 2010 ranked the Dominican Republic as the third most likely country in the world for Americans to die in a car accident. A Virtual Tourist traveler to Punta Cana feared for her life when riding on the roads outside her resort. A Provincia de Puerto tourist said everyone, whether they travel by foot, bike or car, is at risk on the roads. Another traveler noted that there were few traffic signs and drivers largely ignore the rules of the road.

Several things make driving in the Dominican Republic dangerous. First, getting a license isn’t quite as hard as it is in other countries. Also, there are no laws regarding alcohol consumption prior to operating a vehicle; only taxi drivers and others who drive as a profession must stay under a 0.5-percent blood-alcohol limit. However, the government will be quite strict with you as a foreigner if you decide to drink and drive. Drink driving spikes at night and around the Christmas holidays.

A general apathy toward road rules and courtesies also tops the list of why driving in this island nation proves hazardous for all. Some of the behaviours include failing to signal when switching lanes or turning and carelessly going in and out of traffic lanes.

The roads themselves, including highways, don’t always have clear markings, and most are without streetlamps. Vehicles and motorcycles may not always have their headlights on. Cars also might be hazards due to poor maintenance. Pedestrian accidents are common, and it’s safe to assume you never have the right of way on foot.

If you do decide to drive, know that if you get into a no-fault accident resulting in severe injury or death, police will keep you in custody for at least two days. This period can stretch into weeks or months.

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