SIX out of ten road deaths worldwide take place in just 12 countries, one of which is Mexico. Dented doors and battered bumpers are backed up by official figures: every year some 24,000 people lose their lives on Mexico’s potholed roads, almost double the number that die at the hands of its drug mafias. A further 600,000 are injured. The World Health Organisation reckons that, along with mountainous Peru and misgoverned Venezuela, Mexico has the most dangerous roads in Latin America.
In Mexico’s case the main problem is the drivers. Fourteen of Mexico’s 32 states, home to just over half the population, grant licences without setting a practical driving test. Three of those 14 run compulsory courses which students pass merely by attending. Five others have multiple-choice written exams, but they are not very hard. For example: “If on entering the vehicle we find the windscreen dirty”, one (incorrect) option is “to drive fast to clean it”. In six areas, including Mexico City, there is no compulsory training or test of any sort. Applicants in the capital need only pay 604 pesos ($45).