Claudia Reyes is proud of her multitasking skills, which include the ability to put on her makeup while driving to work. From today, however, the young and busy Mexico City office worker could find that whipping out her mascara while she's behind the wheel could cost her $150 dollars.
"It's over the top," she said of the new traffic regulations that came into effect in the Mexican capital today. "Of course I always keep an eye on the road."
The new rules introduce some fines for newly-defined transgressions — such as making aggressive or offensive remarks or gestures to other drivers and not belting up in the back seat. There are also fines for drinking water while at the wheel, driving with a pet on your lap, or making too much noise with your horn.
For the first time the Mexican capital is also introducing a system through which serial rule-breakers will accumulate negative points on their licences that could lead to temporary suspensions. They also bring much harsher fines for existing transgressions, such as talking on mobiles where the fine has been doubled to total $143 dollars.
"The new traffic regulations are aimed to strengthen the safety in all of the city's mobility systems," mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera said upon revealing the new regulations earlier this year. The aim, he said, was to eliminate deaths associated with traffic incidents.
The Global Status Report on Road Safety — released by the World Health Organization — put the road death rate in Mexico as a whole at 20.7 per 100,000 people. This is much worse than the rate in other Latin American countries, such as Argentina and Chile where the figure is 13.7.
Mexico City's drivers are often described by other Mexicans who live outside the capital as particularly aggressive, rude, and dangerous.
But some drivers in the capital — where already crowded streets are struggling under the pressure of an ever greater number of cars — say the new rules will only make things worse.
"All these fines are ridiculous, what if I'm choking and I need to drink water? Emergencies happen all the time," said a 32-year-old driver called Isac, who did not want to give a last name.
Perhaps the most common complaint, however, is that the regulations will do more to line the pockets of corrupt police officers than aid with either security or civility. Mexico City police have a long history of using existing regulations to supplement their incomes.
The city's government has sought to tackle the corruption issue with the help of an app called Mi Policia. The app allows a citizen approached by a cop for breaking a rule to enter the name and badge number of the officer to check if he or she is authorized to fine them.
The most expensive fine on the books under the new rules is for carrying toxic waste in parked vehicles. It amounts to $2,450 dollars.
"I think it's suspicious that the new rules came into action just days before Christmas," said Isac. "Many policemen will take advantage of this to get cash."
And then, there are those drivers who — long accustomed to the bravado and insult-slinging that is currently a part of everyday driving experience in the Mexican capital — see the new regulations' as an affront to their freedom of expression.
"Now you can get fined for everything," said cab driver Juan Lucas. "What's next? Getting fined for giving a passenger an evil stare?"
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