If, while motoring anywhere in the US, you come up behind a vehicle with the left-hand turn signal on, it likely indicates to you that the driver wishes to turn left at the next intersection or change lanes…..or that it’s some old guy or hopped up teenage driver, either of whom might be blissfully unaware that they’re flashing you….and not in the fun way.
Here in Mexico, it’s the same but different. Here in Mexico, if that left blinker is going, it becomes a bit of a logic puzzle. You see, there are many more ways in which it may be interpreted and it’s up to you to figure out which is correct. You have to take into account such things as surrounding terrain, upcoming intersections, age of vehicle and driver, and license plate. Using all the information, you MAY be able to make a semi-educated guess at what that driver intends to do.
While conventional wisdom would say that any coherent person would have his left-turn signal on because he’s planning on turning left at some point within the foreseeable future, conventional wisdom doesn’t prevail here. Mexican wisdom prevails, and rightly so. In which case, you’ve got to consider all the factors I’ve stated above, plus the Mexican mindset. Not an easy puzzle, my friend.
Here are some of the things that a blinking left-turn signal on a vehicle can mean in my neck of the woods:
(1) I am going to change lanes or turn left at the next street/entrance on the left (quite rare);
(2) It’s okay to pass me now, no on-coming traffic (at least that I can see; take your chances, mi amigo);
(3) I’m slowing WAY down but not to turn, it’s just that only my left blinker works when i turn on my flashers;
(4) I want to turn left but there’s on-coming traffic so I’ll be pulling over to the right shoulder/turnout to wait until it clears and then I’ll make my left turn;
(5) The vehicle(s) in front of me is (are) going REALLY slowly and I’m advising you to slow way down too, but only the left side of my blinkers work (see #3 above);
(6) I’m an old gringo person driving and I forgot to turn off my left blinker miles ago;
(7) I’m double-parked and this is the way I indicate that you should just go around me.
Any of those reasons can be combined with another or several others. Deciding what a left-turn signal means here in Mexico is a crap shoot (or, to put it more tastefully, a logic puzzle, as I said above). It’s just one of the many things that make driving here what might be referred to as “adventure driving” (shoutout to Opie Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” for his statement that sleeping on an ironing board put between two chairs constitutes “adventure sleeping”).
Another thing that gives credence to the term adventure driving is the number of animals that can and do wander onto the road. And when I say road, I mean it in the very, very broadest sense (country roads, urban streets, highways, and 8-lane toll roads). And when I say animals, I don’t mean just dogs. I mean cattle, horses, burros, chickens. And not just one at a time. Whole herds or flocks may be crossing a major thoroughfare at any hour of the day or night, with or without any human being in attendance.
But if the left-turn signal can be interpreted in many ways, blinkers are used frequently and always mean the same thing: “Slow down, you idiot, before you rearend me!!!!” I drove in the US for about 45 years and never once during that time did I use my emergency flashers while I was driving. Here, I use them every time I drive, as do most other vehicle operators. If, for any reason, a driver here has to substantially slow his vehicle, on come the flashers. I’ve never seen any statistics, but I’m willing to bet that the number of rear-end collisions in Mexico is much lower than in the US.
But sometimes it doesn’t matter how many lights on a vehicle are blinking. Sometimes you never notice them at all because you’ve been distracted.