Mérida, Yucatán — Drivers on cellphones are causing half the car accidents in the Centro, police say.
Distracted driving is prohibited by law, but remains a habit that’s hard to kick, here and everywhere.
In the Centro, an average of 60 accidents are reported each month. Of those, 30 happened when at least one of the drivers was talking or texting on a phone, said Arturo Romero Escalante, director of the Mérida Municipal Police.
Even with eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel, driving downtown is a challenge.
Municipal authorities estimate that more than 100,000 vehicles pass through the primer quadro — the heart of downtown — and Friday and Saturday that number shoots up to around 150,000.
For a variety of infractions, an average of 500 drivers each month receive tickets from police in the Centro.
Meanwhile, students on the Plaza Grande demonstrated Friday against reckless driving.
“Nothing is better than prevention” was the message from Universidad Modelo students participating in a global campaign against speeding.
Some 30 students gathered before 8 a.m. on the main square with signs and slogans urging drivers to slow down.
Beyond the Centro, a person dies every day and-a-half on Yucatán’s roads, said traffic engineer René Flores Ayora. In 2017, 34 motorcyclists, 18 passengers, 15 pedestrians, 12 cyclists and eight automobile drivers have died in accidents — and it’s only mid-May.
Officials agreed that speed is the a major factor.
“The higher the speed, the greater the distance required to be able to brake. Therefore, the risk of a vehicular collision is greater, “said Rodrigo Ramírez Victoria, head of the Road Safety and Accident Prevention Program of the Yucatan Health Secretariat (SSY).
“Speed control is a very important tool for improving road safety, but it is a great challenge for our state, as many drivers do not recognize the risks involved, and often cause more problems than benefits,” he said.
Flores Ayora makes the case that not all crashes can be called accidents — they’re the result of poor choices willfully by people putting themselves and others at risk.
For example, not wearing a motorcycle helmet, not using seat belts or turn signals, driving after drinking alcohol, using the cell phone, or riding a bicycle without lights and reflectors are some of the behaviors that lead to these unfortunate events.