There is nothing more sombre than coming across a set of crosses and thinking that some poor soul or souls lost their lives at this location. It seemed that everywhere we went in Central America, we came across roadside crosses that marked the scenes of fatal accidents. In the photo above at the edge of a cliff just inland from Las Brisas, we spotted 7 crosses: 5 adults and two children. I can only imagine that an entire family was wiped out at this location and it served as a stern reminder for us to drive slowly and carefully and to only drive during the daytime. As I mentioned in a previous post, night driving in Central America is NOT RECOMMENDED; large potholes are common as are massive speed bumps and wandering cows (photo below) that can all make for terrible car wrecks.
In total on this trip, I saw fatalities at three separate traffic accidents. Well, I didn’t actually see any of the accidents but I arrived before the wrecks had been cleared and the bodies remained at the scene. In one case that I remember most vividly, I was in south central Guatemala. I had just driven from Guatemala City heading towards the southeast border to cross to Honduras to meet Jeff and Donja in Copan. While making my way through the mountain passes, I came upon a terrible wreck. A policeman was direction traffic around the accident and a man’s body was still laying on the ground with a blanket covering him. The road was on an incline and blood was running down the sheet and down the road. I remember thinking that – soon – his wife would be getting a call or visit from the police. It reminded me to slow down.
There are all kinds of road hazards in Central America. Your best bet is to drive slowly, defensively and only in the day. When I pulled over to take a photo of the crosses in the top photo, we saw this curious creature (below) and decided to add him to our photo collection. He’s slightly out of topic for this post but I thought that he was a very unusual and pretty creature. We did see all sorts of other creatures on the road that could make for hazards; sheep, goats, cows, pigs and of course: people.
Just on the Guatemalan side of the border with Mexico, I came across this wreck. There was road construction in the works and the road was covered with loose gravel making breaking difficult. Some man was driving too fast and when he tried to brake, he lost control, slid across the road into oncoming traffic, went into the ditch, rolled the family car and ended up with two dead relatives. Unfortunately, no one was wearing their seatbelts (as is common in this region). If you are traveling by private transport, be sure to get a vehicle with belts and use them! As for public transport, go with a recognized company. If you are taking the local “chicken bus,” try to find one that has a rational driver.
In Guatemala, the people believe that if you drive with your lights on you will waste gas. So, in an effort to save gas everyone drives with their lights off. As crazy as this sounds it makes for terribly perilous driving. It is really hard to believe that such an urban rumor could persist to the point of such foolishness. I was surprised that the government didn’t do anything to crack down and correct that behavior.
Everyone in this car should have walked away but because they were not wearing their seatbelts two of the passengers suffered catastrophic head injuries as the car rolled.
At the Guatemala/Mexican border, I counted 21 people climb out of this mini-van. You’ll notice that small children are sitting in the front seat. In a crash, all the people in the back (who are not wearing seat belts) will fly forward smashing these kids into the windshield. Worse yet, if this van has airbags, those kids will get launched 300 miles per hour rearward as the bags deploy and send them head on to the adults who are flying forward. If you do take public transport in Central America, I’d avoid taking an overcrowded mini-van – it just looks unsafe all around. Really, no holiday, vacation or travel experience is worth your life.
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