Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Brazil, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Brazil is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Travelers should consider obtaining an Inter-American Driving Permit to carry along with their valid U.S. license if they plan to drive while in Brazil. Such permits can be obtained through AAA or other sources.
Driving on Brazil's inter-city roads can pose significant risks. As is the case elsewhere in the region, poor driving skills, bad roads, and a high density of trucks combine to make travel via roads considerably more hazardous than in the United States.
There are no laws requiring truckers to take mandatory rest stops and they often drive for excessive periods of time. All major inter-city routes are saturated with heavy truck traffic and for the most part have only two lanes.
Road maintenance is inadequate and some long-distance roads through the Amazon forest are impassable much of the year. Private cars and public buses are the main modes of inter-city road travel. Buses can range (depending on the route and the price) from luxurious and well-maintained to basic and mechanically unsound. Bus hijacking, usually non-violent, occurs at random in some areas of the country.
Apart from toll roads, which generally have their own services, roadside assistance is available only very sporadically and informally through local private mechanics. The fastest way to summon assistance in an emergency anywhere in the country is to dial 193, a universal number staffed by local fire departments. This service is in Portuguese only. Many motorists in major urban areas and more developed parts of the country carry cellular phones, and can be asked to assist in calling for help.
Traffic Laws: There are severe penalties for a number of traffic offenses. If you are involved in an accident that results in injuries or death, you may be fined for compensatory and punitive damages, as well as charged with criminal penalties.
Enforcement of traffic laws ranges from sporadic to non-existent, so motorists should not assume that others will necessarily follow even the most fundamental and widely-accepted rules of the road. Some important local rules and customs include the following:
Seatbelts / Child Car Seats: Brazil requires the use of seatbelts for everyone in the car. Brazilian federal law requires car seats for all children under the age of 7 ½. From age 7 ½ years to 10, children cannot ride in the front seat of the car, and must be in the back seat wearing a seatbelt.
Speed Limits: The maximum speed limit on major, divided highways is 120 kmph (74 mph). Lower limits (usually 60 kmph or 40 mph) are often posted in urban areas depending on the road and the nature of the neighborhood. Speed limits are widely ignored and rarely enforced. However, an increasing number of towns and cities have electronic/photographic devices (marked "Fiscalizacao Eletronica") which verify speed and take photos of violators' cars and license plates as a basis for issuing speeding tickets. Brazilian drivers tend to brake suddenly when encountering these devices. Many cities and towns have erected speed bumps, which are sometimes severe and may be unpainted and unmarked.
Yielding the Right of Way: Drivers must yield the right of way to cars on their right. Compliance with stop signs is rarely enforced, so many motorists treat them as yield signs.
Driving Under the Influence: Drivers with any measurable content of alcohol in their blood are in violation of the law. Checkpoints are often set up in urban areas where randomly chosen drivers are required to exit their vehicles and perform a breathalyzer test.
Local Driving Customs: Drivers often use flashes or wave a hand out of the window to signal other drivers to slow down. In addition, pedestrian "zebra" crossings are strictly observed in some places (especially in Brasilia) and ignored most everywhere else.
You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, and health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.