What's Different About Driving in Mexico?
Legal System - Mexico's legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code. (Yes, think France's Napoleon Bonaparte). Unlike the American Legal system which evolved from the English Legal Code, in Mexico you are considered guilty until proven innocence. Further, an auto accident is considered a crime. Unless you want to extend your visit by a stay in a Mexican jail and your vehicle impounded, you must have a Mexico Auto Insurance Policy to prove financial responsibility. In addition to insurance that is recognized by Mexican officials, be sure your Mexico Auto policy includes Legal Aid and Bail Bonding coverage.
WARNING! - While a Texas or other U.S. Auto Insurance Policy may include an extension for short trips into Mexico, the Mexican Government doesn't recognize anything but the coverage provided by an insurance company that is based in Mexico. Foreign Auto Insurance will not help you regardless of what your insurance contract says. Don't drive across the border without a Mexico Auto Insurance policy to protect you.
Driving Culture - Don't expect Mexican residents to drive like they are Americans. Driving is far more "informal" with lane markings and signage being more suggestions than expectations. Your defensive driving skills will be tested!
Road Conditions - Roads in Mexico are a mixed bag of modern superhighways and "works in progress." In rural areas, driving can be an adventure with loose livestock, crazy buses and uncertain road conditions. Urban areas can have challenges compounded by traffic congestion. Often Mexican roads are less well lit and much more dangerous at night.
Important Insurance Differences
Peril Protection - Rather than Comprehensive, most Mexico Auto policies provide more limited "Named Peril" coverage with protection only for specifically stated events. Also, minor vandalism and theft of vehicle parts is not covered on all Mexico Auto policies. Be sure you are getting the broadest protection available.
Legal Aid & Bail Bond Protection - This is a critical coverage for visitors but sold as an option. If you do have an accident, you are going to need legal help recognized by the Mexican officials. Be sure your Mexico Auto policy includes this essential protection.
Drinking & Driving - It's doubly bad in Mexico. If you are intoxicated and driving it voids your Mexico Auto Insurance policy.
Civil vs. Criminal - In Texas, most accidents are handled as Civil Legal events without the risk of criminal prosecution. Your insurance company and the other party sort out fault and financial damages in our Civil Court system. In Mexico, an accident is considered a crime and you are guilty until proven innocent. You are likely to be taken into police custody and your auto impounded until fault is determined and arrangements are made to pay for any penalty and damages.
Auto Accident Injuries - Mexico has a Nationalized Healthcare system but it does not cover non-citizens. Be sure that your Mexico Auto policy has adequate protection if you or your passengers get hurt in an accident so that you can get the treatment you might need. Buying an International Short Term Health plan can also be valuable (see, HTH Worldwide below).
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