Minor wreck report, Mexico, 2002 Sienna, Tuesday

We live in a small village in the mountains, south-east of Mexico City several hours.

Today, as usual we drove to the weekly market. On the way home, well, we aren’t sure how it happened. But, a man was rolling on the ground as if he had fallen out of the combi. And, cars were making panic stops. Except for one, heh, heh.

I was the first of four cars who had damage. The pickup behind me bumped my rear bumper plastic cover, and I cannot open and shut the hatch on my mini-van. Men there said it should be easy to fix.

The second was a pickup and he was stopped correctly. Behind him was a small taxi, and last was a pickup, who clearly was totally at fault.

The second vehicle had his wife and a small baby, and she shielded the baby with her own body. One of the investigators talked to the mother, but there were no bumps or marks on the baby’s head. My wife did tell them if the baby started vomiting to get him to a doctor as soon as possible.

Behind him was the taxi, and I tell you that car was smashed front and back. Back, from the last vehicle that caused the wreck. Front from hitting the pickup in front.

In the guilty pickup, was the man’s mother. He told me her name; she went to the hospital, but he didn’t think it was really grave. Several other people, probably in the taxi, also went. We have no condition report.

The guilty pickup driver had no documents of any kind, said he left them at home, which here most likely means they don’t exist.

My wife was really upset. When the vehicles stopped bouncing, the man who caused the wreck came running up very aggressively blaming me. When my wife told him it wasn’t my fault, he screamed, “Where are your witnesses?” He soon found out. The main witness was a government official whose office overlooks the site.

I am an Internet friend of his sister in California. And, his mom when I went to take photos for sister in CA. This happened while he was still serving his prison sentence for, ahem, unlawful death. Today he said he was in for 15 years.

The local cops did a quick investigation, then called in a State traffic investigator from a small city an hour or so away. We simply had to wait. The local cops directed traffic around the wrecks, until the investigator said it was okay to move them. Several men pushed the cause pickup off the road.

He went through it all again, then eventually announced I was absolutely not responsible. And, further that each must pay for the person ahead.

It is sort of like that, except in the US, usually you must actually meet the liability of the person ahead, thus the car that slammed into everyone ends up paying for everyone’s damage. Here, no. The chain went only one link.

So, after all was sorted out, he told the drivers to get together and work out settlements on the pay the person ahead plan.

In a minute, my wife was upset again. The taxi driver, the third vehicle of four, was allegedly assessed as at fault, and the real cause was allowed to go free.

The only thing that made sense was if the transito applied street justice. The cause of the wreck had no money at all, and no way to get any. So, if he were assessed for the costs, he’d never get out of jail and no one would get a cent. I am not sure of this, but I sure can’t think of any other explanation for letting the cause walk away. I think it’s called “Deep Pockets”.

The number 2 driver was assessed 2000 pesos for expired license, and it was recommended he pay us 600 pesos. Friends from his village peeled 200 peso bills until all was paid. That is how Mexicans take care of each other. We are guessing that 600 pesos will not fix it, but my wife and I agreed we weren’t going to create more grief for that young couple who were no more responsible than we were.

Note that no one went to jail, and no one was threatened with jail, unlike most other wreck reports I have read over many years, even though people did go to the hospital.

Addendum: 14 years ago, a little girl ran across the street and hugged me around the knees, and said, “Tio Abuelito”. (Great Uncle.)

All these years her family has accepted me as her grandpa, including her two real grandpas. When they have a reunion, they invite me. And, when she got stung by a scorpion one night, her dad ran and asked me for help.

When they were going home today they saw my car. There aren’t too many dark blue Siennas around here. They jumped out and stayed with us until all was finished, except she had to bug out early for high school at 2 pm. She laughed and volunteered to help me fight anyone who needed it.

I think if you were a tourist in the same wreck, and knew no one locally, it would be scary. Even worse if you didn’t speak much Spanish. Be sure to get insurance with legal representation.

I found all the cops, local cops and state transitos, to be totally professional and courteous at all times.

Update: the hatch is partly bent right where the pickup hit it., but a clever cousin took off the bumper cover and there were two minor problems. First, the foam piece broke and shoved up which deformed the cover, which meant I could not open the rear hatch. He glued the foam with resistol 5000 and, ahem, duct tape.

And, there was minor metal damage. The striker was not entering the door latch correctly. We took off the striker and with pieces cut out of a tuna can, added two shims and now the door open light goes off.

Today, a kid chased me down the street. He heard I might need body repair, and says he worked 15 years in body repair in Phoenix. So, if I get my immigration papers and the car legal, I may have him hammer out the hatch itself.

Anyway, the car is drivable now except the right brake bulb is burned out, but I think I have my old bulbs somewhere. I went looking and only one place had bulbs, but not the 7443 I need. I can get them in Tehuacan, but that is 4 hours round trip and I don’t want to risk a traffic stop for bad bulb if I can help it.

If the car is approved, I will probably buy a new bumper cover. I saw one on-line for $116.

That sounds like my admittedly uneducated perception of Mexico.
I’m glad there you & yours weren’t hurt.

So, the guy who caused the 4-car pileup, who had no legal paperwork at all, gets to go home free, and you’ll probably end up with a ticket for a busted taillight?

You’ve reached out to help people here. If I could figure out how to get your address without your posting it (which I would NEVER recommend), I’d be happy to mail you a bulb. Perhaps you could get one in 1-2 days over the internet?

Good thing is that you are all okay. I have been in Mexico once and actually detained (with my then young family) by the police for unclear reasons for a few hours. It could get frustrating, esp as it was a US national holiday and the embassy was closed. But finally someone in the US embassy answered the phone and in 20 minutes we were let go.

Thanks for the worry, TSM, but I kept the ones i removed for high mileage. And, it is two hours to Autozone in Tehuacan. I pulled the hatch liner and already have the new (0ld) bulb installed. I have not yet got the liner re-installed, but when the cousin comes I assume it will be short work. he is a very clever man. I just couldn’t get all those clips to line up, but he did it before when the broken hatch handle was replaced. (I ordered a metal one from the Web, as discusses on Sienna chat.)

As far as I know the traffic cop only gave a “ticket” (not what they call it here) to the man behind me, for expired license.

to be honest, I was not especially upset by it. Yes, there was an ex-con (murdered) driving either poorly or with bad brakes, and as far as we could tell he walked away clean. This upset my wife, but IMO if they had told him to pay for the taxi it would be a life sentence, because he clearly has no money and probably very little or no work, and his mother is very poo. Father deceased, and a sister in California. One thing the US is famous for is full prisons, Five times the world average for people in prison. So, I am not angered that he didn’t have to pay. I don’t know if the presence of his 3 year old daughter had anything to do with it or not.

Galant, that would be interesting to know why they detained you. Strange. It is one thing if you were at the bridge and another if they stopped you way inside the nation.

The only thing that comes to mind is proof that you had legal custody of those children. they are fussy about that in Mexico, but that is only a totally wild guess.

I do not want to anger anyone, but I am far less afraid of Mexican police than US police. Twenty years ago that would not have been the case. they now have a Human Rights Agency with real clout, and they do not cover for cop errors as we so often see in the US.

I do not recommend inexperienced North Americans drive in Mexico, ever. The driving culture is different and thus dangerous. I did not drive until I had been using buses and taxis for years. Buses are everywhere, modestly priced, my wife pays around $50 from here to the border, without elder discount, it would still be around $100. Very safe and comfortable. Mexican bus service is viewed at one of the best in the world. Only deep in the hills do you get poor bus service.

This was not a typical Mexican dummy wreck. It was the sort of tail-ender which could happen anywhere in the US at any time. The only difference beside the cause walking away was the non-punitive settlement procedures.

The only reason I posted this was to let people know what happens when you have a wreck, in a place where the cops are honest and professional as they were here.

In 74 I meant to park and walk across in Laredo but drove across by mistake. Coming back in they really looked my car over which was new, and even took out the ash trays in the door panel looking for drugs I guess. Went over again in McAllen some years later but the begging in the streets just got to us so we never had any desire to go further.

There are parts of Mexico I would definitely not drive in. I didn’t understand at all how they knew who had right of way, and there were too many aggressive truck drivers. But the Yucatan was totally different. It could have been anywhere in the US, other the poor condition and lack of signage on secondary roads. But you can find that in Massachusetts.

This was about five or six years ago and they were building new highways everywhere we went. Nice, wide highways built to high standards with excellent signage. They were a pleasure to use, and the drivers were very courteous. The only problem is that there is nothing to see. The Yucatan countryside is completely flat and agricultural. Orange groves and agaves.

The villages are very interesting and the old roads go right through the middle. So we used the new roads when time was short and the old roads when we wanted to see the villages. The one big hazard on the old roads are the speed bumps, like nothing we have here. Tall and with steep sides, you have to creep over them. Usually there are signs, but not always. If you’re approaching a village, you learn to expect them, but they are also at unpredictable places between towns. Our poor wreck of a Neon seems to have hit a few too many at speed. It had no shocks to speak of, and even the least bump would cause it to rock and sway and beep furiously at us. Perfectly awful little car.

Anyhow, it was a wonderful trip. We went nowhere near Cancun or the other Caribbean resorts, focusing on the Mayan sites and colonial cities and towns. We stayed in Mérida, a charming city with a compact center that’s easy to walk, full of public art and having a big street festival downtown once a week with thousands of people dancing in the streets to multiple bands. The city has a reputation for being both clean and safe, and the reputation seemed deserved. I’d happily go back. Uxmal, the best of the Mayan cities of that area is about 90 minutes away. We took a tour with a very good guide, but that was before we had a car and discovered how easy driving there was. The people of the Yucatan pride themselves on being more civilized than other Mexicans. One sign on the new roads read (translated), “In the Yucatan we keep our highways clean.” Unlike the pigs everywhere else, I guess.

Wow, the time passes fast when you are having fun. My car got bumped 4 months ago? I kept telling people it was 2 months ago.

I mentioned to a man i know that my car had damage. He told me to go see Filiberto. Later driving down the street, a man came running up to talk to me. it was Filiberto. Turns out he speaks English and worked 15 years in Arizona on wreck repairs.

I put it off until my wife went away so I would be the only one walking around without a car.

After I bought the weeks vegetables at the Tuesday market, I took the car to him. He esimated both repair and painting at 2880 pesos, which should be just a bit over $200 USD.

He said I should have it back on Friday… His circumstances are meager. He had rented a place, but owner told him to leave, probably paint odors. His kids came home while I was there, based on their ages they spent a lot of years with no father in the house.

I remembered a scuff on the side of the car and he said he’d get enough paint for that, too. I told him he will probably be seeing my car again, heh, heh.

I did not give him the key to the car. i told him under current car importation laws if he drives my car (He doesn’t have one of his own that runs) they can confiscate it. He took that good naturedly. I did give him the remote so he can lock and unlock the doors.

My only worry is if it rains while the hatch is off will he have a plastic or tarp to protect it?

I hope it works out okay, because I am convinced it will not be the last time I get smashed.

The man who recommended him? Filiberto told me he fixed that man’s car twice. Three times he got drunk and wiped it out. Twice they paid to fix it, and the third time his wife begged him not to fix it again. He finally agreed…

i did ask Filiberto if it was fixable the third time. He said absolutely. So, I am hoping if my Toyota gets really thumped badly he can bring it back to life.

I will let you know in a few days how it came out.

irlandes I have never lived in Mexico but have visited many, many times and driven there quite a bit. What frustrates me are the US tourists who spend good money to visit somewhere different and expect the laws, rules, regulations, and customs to be the same as home. I have never had a problem with any of these in Mexico or anywhere else in the world. I realize “this aint Kansas”! No. I don’t live in Kansas. I was just referencing “The Wizard of OZ”. In 2006 we rented a brand new Mexican built “1994” Nissan Sentra" In Can’cun. They manufactured air cooled VW Beetles until 2004. We drove it all over the Yuca’tan. The only automotive problem I encountered was when PEMEX which is the government owned and only source of automotive fuel suddenly could not accept credit cards. I always carry a fair amount of cash in Mexico so it was not a crisis. 2 days later credit cards were again OK.

I agree that too many US tourists expect things to be the same everywhere. That is why the majority of them who try living in Mexico return “home” within two years, even though they assumed they would live there their entire life.

I am told by many people that I have adapted very well. I told someone that if I died and woke up here in this same exact village, with the same exact house and the same exact neighbors, I would not be disappointed. I cannot even imagine living anywhere else.

Some months ago, a newspaper reported that many cars were messed up by Pemex regular gas. Some additive they put in there clogged up fuel systems costing quite a bit to clean out.

I read somewhere that Mexico ships petroleum to Houston for refinement. Houston puts in the additives for Premium, but the additives for Regular get put in, in Mexico. When I first got here, a cousin said he recommended using premium since sometimes regular gave problems. In the end, it all makes sense. I have always used Premium and have had no problems.

So liability insurance isn’t really a consideration in Mexico?

I rode across Mexico City twice during the most recent week I was in that area (8/2 - 8/9). Just like the last time, 17 months ago, I did not see a single wreck in the city.

On one trip, I was riding in a full sized Chevy van, trying to follow another one just like it. The driver was another US citizen who supposedly had a lot of experience driving in that area. I have never been as afraid in a vehicle as I was with him driving. Three of our group of 18 bailed from that van and got into the other one for the trip back to San Vicente. There was no more room, or more might have followed. The same driver scraped the side of that van on the corner of a building the next day. No reason, just turned too short. I wonder if he drives that way when he’s at home.

When the same two vans picked us up at the airport on our arrival, one of the security guards in the airport’s huge parking garage tried to extort a bribe (mordita) from the Mexican driver of the second van, saying it was a new tax for transporting more than six gringos in a vehicle at one time. The driver wasn’t buying it, having made the same trip MANY times to pick up MANY visitors to the mission we were to visit.

Yes, FoDaddy, liability insurance is imperative in Mexico. If you owe money to someone in a wreck you sit in jail until you come up with the money.

But, Big Brother does not check to see if you have it to drive your car as in the USA.

Having said that, most rural Mexicans do not have insurance, on car or anything else. If they have a wreck they run for their lives.

For tourists, there are several sources of insurance. Lewis and Lewis, which is only a US agent for a company whose name I can never spell. Something like Qualitatis, a reputable Mexican car insurance company.

I get everything, like $300,000 liability, full coverage on my car; uninsured motorist, and legal representation. It’s like $400 a year for all of Mexico.

Sanborn’s also sells car insurance. But, they will only sell you what you have in the US. In McAllen full coverage is close to $1000 a year. So, I buy from L and L and cut State Farm back to the minimum liability while I am in Mexico.

Qual.? has representatives who allegedly can come running any time of day or night, though it might take them a while to get there if you are in the boonies. They allegedly are ready to pay out large settlements on the spot. That seems strange, but I hope I never find out how they do it.

I do have a mandatory $500 deductible on my car. So, there is no need to report anything like my current damage, which should cost less than $250 USD.

MG, La Paz in the Valley of Mexico is a den of thieves in blue. A few years ago we still had to come through the Valley or take a 7 hour trip across country. That new Arco Norte to Puebla completely bypassing the Valley is a real blessing.

A cop pulled me over though I had done nothing wrong. He told me to follow him. I knew I had done nothing wrong, so I asked him, somewhat forcefully, “Are you going to rob us?”

When he realized I was not going to roll over and play dead, he told me I was in violation of Federal law because though I had my car import permit, I did not have the new mandatory permission for my suitcases in the car. Give me a break, hee, hee.

I still did not roll over and play dead. I think I actually started lipping off a bit. If you are not part of the Irish Death Wish crew as I call them, (Okay, us) don’t try this one.

At one point, he threatened to put me in jail. I threw my hands out wide as if to say, “Go ahead, %$#@*&^/.”

My Mexican wife almost had a heart attack!

I decided enough of this nonsense. I told him that Federal Law made it a federal crime for local cops to find fault with Federal Documents. I guess they can examine them to make sure you have them, but, if they thought there was a problem they have to call in Federal officials.

His little buddy suddenly told him they had a call on an emergency. They jumped in their car and drove off. So did we.

Let me make it clear. I only responded this way because I had done nothing at all wrong, period. And, he talked garbage to me. (Not the correct term.) If I had been speeding or had done anything wrong at all, I’d have greased their palms. (It’s called mordida, the bite, note spelling.)

And, I do not recommend anyone talk tough to a Mexican cop. Bad idea. So, he made me angry. And, yes, I was ready to go to jail. If you are not, dig out the grease and slap it in his hand.

Next trip, a Federale (one of the guys with the big Dodge Charger patrol car) stopped two of us just west of La Paz, both with Texas license plates, headed for the Mexiquense. I wondered what on earth they wanted. He asked us if we had problems in La Paz. We told him, no, not this trip. So, I suspect the Federal Tourist Bureau has asked to have La Paz traffic cops cleaned up.

And folks wonder why everyone wants to get out of Mexico.

To be technically accurate, not everyone in Mexico or any other country wants to move to the US. I know that is the common perception, but I assure you that many people do not want to leave where they are now.

Those in every country who want to go to the US are almost always those not doing too well where they are, and believe they can do better in the USA. And, that means they are not usually qualified for legal entry as a desired skill person.

I do not want a detailed political discussion. But, having spent most of my adult life in the company of immigrants, did wish to correct a common misunderstanding.

“My Mexican wife…”

…'nuff said… ;-]

I found this http://www.mexicanautoinsurance.com/about-qualitas.html and forwarded it to the guy in charge of getting our insurance when we do drive two church vans into Mexico. We drive once or twice a year. I think we have been giving about $100 for four days of coverage on each van. $400 a year sounds cheap.

I find what you said about the majority of those I’ve met in Mexico not wanting to head north to be quite true. I also know several Mexican Nationals who live here who long to vacation back home. Some do, some don’t. Their reasons vary. I’ve also met several former “dreamers” in Mexico who have no intention of trying to re-cross the border. Their ability to speak perfect English is a very good way to get ahead south of the border.

I have long maintained that EVERY USA teenager should make a trip to some (possibly) less fortunate country just to know how others live. Mexico is closest, but some from my church have gone as far as Cambodia, India, The Philippines, and Indonesia.

@Insightful Yes, Mexican wife married 39 years in early July. We are both 72. She has been rather Americanized after 40+ years in the US. Once, I quipped that I was more Mexican than she is, thinking she would be angry. But, she stopped and thought a minute, and said I probably am.

@MG do read the fine print in case there are conditions on something like a church van with other than family members. I am not saying there is. I am saying look it over very carefully.

Also, there is no guarantee that you can get it cheaper for a four day trip. There is going to be a minimum charge, and you are more likely to have wrecks on a one-time, short trip than long-term driving after the first few days.

The guy repairing my car was gone 15 years, and has been back 2 years. He apparently came back with a bundle, looking at the house he started. It makes my house look trivial and my house impresses the heck out of the neighbors. Cost of living here is very low for Mexicans if they have a house paid for, even if it is a big house. Our taxes with 50% elder discount for my wife came out to around $50 this year. And, it is appraised well over $100,000 mostly for land, at (I think by memory) at $3 a square foot.

I went today to see if the bulbs inside the rear hatch are still good after he had it apart, so when he gets it put back together we don’t need to open it up again to change a bulb.

I asked for another bit of work, when I took it in. I scraped the right rear side, a very minor scrape. When we cross the bridge, there is a very small street and if you meet a car coming the other way at the same time you are making a 90 degree turn, it gets really tight. Most cars that use that bridge eventually get a scrape on the right side near the back. He said he will fix that, but he needs it another day.

I told him I do not think this will be the last time he works on my car. I am actually glad to find someone I can trust. I think I mentioned he worked in body repair for 15 years in Arizona.

I forget if I said, but the man who recommended him wrecked his car three times. He fixed it twice, but the wife pleaded with him not to fix it the third time. When he gets drunk, he feels compelled to go out for a drive…

He finaly agreed so he apparently junked it out. The repair guy said, yes, he could have fixed it again. I know the guys wife got hurt badly in the second wreck. She was disabled for months. So, it must have been pretty smashed up, but he made it good.

So, unless a truck puts me in the back seat or something, I suspect he can make it good.