Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Federalism's experiments

Some states in Mexico have tried to eliminate corruption by removing one opportunity. The results have not been all good.

The lawless roads
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…

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…

Mexico was not always so freewheeling. Until the 1990s driving tests were near-universal, but it took unusual robustness of character to pass without paying a bribe. Rather than tackle corruption, some states simply abolished the test. Others followed suit in order to attract applicants (and income) from out-of-state residents.

The disregard for road safety goes wider. The ring roads that roar around Mexico’s big cities have speed limits of up to 80kph. By contrast in Costa Rica the urban speed limit is 40kph. Drivers are slack about seat belts and child-seats are rarer still. A PAHO study in 2008 estimated that on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in Mexico City a total of 200,000 people drove while drunk…

Given the right training, Mexico’s drivers are as safe as any other country’s. An American study found that Mexican truckers had fewer accidents in the United States than their American counterparts. That might be because Mexican hauliers, along with taxi-drivers and other professionals, have to sit a driving test. Until testing becomes universal, Mexico’s roads will remain lethal.

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