Brazilians are really no good at it: driving. They are not even particularly aggressive but simply incapable.
To accelerate quickly, to stay in line, to take a turn without blocking two other cars, to look where you’re driving – not one of these behaviors should be taken for granted when it comes to traffic. Even less practices like using the rear-view mirror or to look back over ones shoulder…
Behaviors that seem more popular among drivers here are the use of a cellphone, the sending of a few messages, the checking of facebook or to have a beer or two before driving back home. Really nothing unusual…
Knowing this, it doesn’t come as a surprise that traffic fatalities have been raising; even catching up with the murder rates according to some newspapers. Those who are most threatened by this development are not car- but motorbike drivers who recklessly double cars, buses or lorries left and right, always assuming that honking gives them priority and does away with the optical realities of the blind spot.
It doesn’t help that the helmet is – especially in the interior – considered as optional and that decent protective clothing is not so much unknown as unaffordable. On the other hand, Brazilians manage to turn a normal motorbike into a heavy duty transport engine, carrying not only the driver and a passenger but also two kids and the weekly grocery shopping. Or, as witnessed once by us, a driver, a passenger and the front half of a dead cow.
Truth to be told, the responsibility for the sometimes chaotic behaviors on the streets in Brazil does not only lie with the drivers. The conditions of the road and the cars is often just as frightening. Junky cars that are kept together by rust and habit only, streets with potholes of impressive depths as well as bridges that get flooded during raining season – it’s by no means easy to focus on the traffic.
Though that’s exactly what would be necessary, especially if you consider all those who ‘participate’ in it:
- Oversized SUV whose owners’ driving capacity is inversely related to the horse power of their cars,
- Optimistically loaded lorries whose brakes are all but reliable
- Bus and taxi drivers who consider every centimeter of ground given away to another car as a personal defeat
- Artisan karts drawn by horses or donkeys and often as optimistically loaded as the lorries
- Barefoot cyclists talking on their mobile and of course without any light or protection whatsoever.
- Plus, outside of the cities: cows, more donkeys & horses, goats, sheep, chicken, pigs and dogs. And occasionally urubu – vultures feeding of the roadkill.
Indeed, driving is no easy feat in Brazil.