Saturday, January 3, 2009

My first driving experience & Rules of the road

“We really need to go the market,” Jennifer says, and I look up from sweeping the floor. “Do you want to drive?” I ask her. “No, do you?” I look at her doubtfully and then nod. “I guess I could give it a try.” Neither of us had driven in Haiti yet and I was a little nervous about the idea. I slowly drop my broom and then hike down to the river where Jason and Jayden are playing. “Jason, I need a driving lesson in the Rhino (our little golf cart like vehicle).” “Where are you going?” he questions.“To the market”. “Okay, I’ll show you how to drive the thing, but don’t forget the rules of the road.” “I know, I know.” I’ve been a passenger for awhile here in Haiti so I’ve gotten to be familiar with them. Minutes later I start the Rhino. “This is low, high, neutral and reverse, here under the steering wheel is the horn, remember to use it.” I smile and nod and then take it for a test drive.” You can go faster.” Jason urges. “Nah” I say, “maybe in a little bit. Let me get a good feel for the vehicle first.” I drive slowly back to the camp and pick up Jennifer. There we go. White knuckled and peering straight ahead I slowly make my way out of the gates of Camp De La Grace. Beep, beep, I honk at the gate to let people and other vehicles know I’m coming. Here we go!
So what are the rules of the road? Well, I was quick to learn that it doesn’t matter what side of the road you drive on. The best side is the one with the least potholes! Don’t get to close to the edges of the road either because people here use cactus's as fences. If you drive to close in an open vehicle you could get pretty scratched up! The biggest vehicle gets the right of way. So I don’t have to move over for a motorcycle or a bicycle, but since the rhino is smaller then a car, dump truck or tap tap, I’d better make sure I move out of the way when they are coming in my direction. Beware of chickens! I almost drove over one! Actually beware of all animals, since you share the road with oxen, goats and donkeys and they don’t follow any rules. When you’re crossing the river, make sure you go really, really slow. You don’t want to spray dirty river water at people doing laundry or giving their ox a drink of water. As for hills take them straight on, otherwise the Rhino might tip over (that’s what it said on the little safety instructions glued to the dashboard anyway). And remember to honk at every corner. There are no stop signs or stop lights so people count on their ears. If they don’t hear anything they just keep going without looking. Also make sure you honk when you come up behind some walking, the roads are full of people and if you don’t honk they assume you don’t want to pass them. If you remember these rules you should be okay!Anyway, although we did get lost we did eventually find the market and I really enjoyed driving. It didn’t take long for me to feel more comfortable and relaxed. I even dared to go a little faster. Although the “rules of the road” probably seem ridiculous to those used to driving in Canada or the US they actually work really well here. I’m glad that I conquered my fear of driving here and actually enjoyed it. I can’t wait to do it again!


  1. Will, you are soooooooooo brave! Good job!
    Love the Jansens

  2. Willemien, Jason en Jayden
    Happy New Year!!
    Nog steeds leuk om jullie ervaringen te lezen.
    Heel byzonder en stoer hoe jullie daar leven.
    Ga zo door!
    Margreet Arie Ralph

  3. Hi Jenny, how are you doing. Glad you are able to keep up with us on our blog. We like your comments. As for bravery, it's not really that. It's just necessity, it's amazing what you can do, if you know there's just no other way!

    Hi Tante Margreet! Glad that you are still reading our stories too. Thanks for your comments. Nice hearing from you! Liefs Willemien

  4. Nice ride! It looks really tough too! Where did you get your Rhino? It would be a lot of fun to drive something like that.

    Flavia Casumpang

  5. I agree. Some streets don't have stop signs, which is very dangerous. All streets should have traffic lights or signs. When an intersection lacks the necessary signs, it is best to stop and wait for the road to clear before moving forward or turning.

  6. I have to agree with Angelica. If there's no sign of any stop signs (LOL), I suggest we should all be responsible drivers and give way to others. For this reason, traffic congestions, and accidents are minimized.

  7. It's important for us drivers to heed those road signs because they are put up for our own good. :) It's alarming to know that the car accident death rate in America is increasing. According to the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group (IRTAD), the total fatalities this year totals to 33,808. :(

  8. Following road signs and traffic laws is simply the best way for you to consider yourself as a safe and responsible driver. The more compliant you are on the road, the less you are at risk of getting involved in any road accidents.

  9. Leo started teaching Rally school in 2000 and has been an ARDS and BARS grade A instructor for many years. Having worked for top manufactures around the worlds with some of today’s staff at Forster Racing School. Leo, and his team of instructors have a wealth of race and tuition experience. Teaching in almost every rally or race car going from luxury cars on Ice to BMW M3′s, Ferraris, and Lamborghini’s on racing circuits. Driving and teaching at top corporate venues in bespoke JP LM-1 or Porches even rallying in Escort cosworth or Subaru’s. You name it we’ve probably driven, raced or taught in it.