Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in the Dominican Republic, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Dominican Republic is provided for general reference only.
Traffic in the Dominican Republic moves on the right side of the road. Speed limits vary from 25 mph in the city to 60 mph on rural roads, but they are generally not enforced. Drivers are required to carry liability insurance.
If you do drive in the Dominican Republic, you should be aware that the utmost caution and defensive driving are necessary. Traffic laws are similar to those in the United States, but undisciplined driving is common, due to a lack of adequate traffic controls. Many drivers will not use turn indicators. It is common for a vehicle operator to stick his hand out the window to signal a turn. Drivers can also be aggressive and erratic, often failing to yield the right-of-way even when road signs or signals indicate that they should. Turning right on red lights is permitted, but should be done with caution.
Travel at night on intercity highways and in rural areas should be avoided, due to animals on the road, poor road conditions, poor lane markers, missing manhole covers, large potholes, unmarked speed bumps, and other vehicles being driven at excessive speeds, often with malfunctioning headlights or taillights. Drivers should be aware that road hazards and closures are often indicated by piles of debris littered across the roadway, without any lettered signs or reflective surfaces to help call attention to the road condition. Often times, there is no indication of the road hazard whatsoever. Blackouts also increase the danger of night travel. Mudslides and bridge washouts can be a problem during and after heavy rains. The distances between reliable roadside services or major population centers can be considerable, which also increases the risk involved in driving after dark.
Traffic accidents often result in serious injury or death. This is often the case when heavy vehicles, such as buses or trucks, are involved. Traditionally, vehicles involved in accidents in the Dominican Republic are not moved (even to clear traffic), until authorized by a police officer. Drivers who violate this norm may be held legally liable for the accident.
Dominican law requires that a driver be taken into custody for driving under the influence or being involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death, even if the driver is insured and appears not to have been at fault. The minimum detention period is 48 hours; however, detentions frequently last until a judicial decision is reached (often weeks or months), or until a waiver is signed by the injured party (usually as the result of a cash settlement).
Visitors to the Dominican Republic might want to consider hiring a professional driver during their stay in lieu of driving themselves. Licensed drivers who are familiar with local roads can be hired through local car rental agencies. In case of accidents, only the driver will be taken into custody.
Pedestrians tend to step out into traffic without regard to corners, crosswalks, or traffic signals. Many pedestrians die every year crossing the street (including major, multi-lane highways) at seemingly random locations. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way, and walking along or crossing busy streets – even at intersections with traffic lights or traffic police present – can be very dangerous.
Seat belts are required by law, and those caught not wearing them will be fined. There are no child car seat laws. The law also requires the use of hands-free cellular devices while driving. Police stop drivers using cell phones without the benefit of these devices. Penalties for those driving under the influence and those involved in accidents resulting in injury or death can be severe.
Motorcycles and motor scooters are common in the Dominican Republic, and they are often driven erratically. Dominican law requires that motorcyclists wear helmets, but local authorities rarely enforce this law. Motor vehicle authorities report that less than one percent of motorcyclists in the country are actually licensed. As noted previously, public transportation vehicles such as the route taxis (“carros publicos”) and urban buses (“guaguas”) are unsafe.
You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, 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.