Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in a foreign country, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Senegal is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Senegal is very different from driving in the United States. Many U.S. citizens find the traffic in Senegal chaotic, particularly in Dakar. Drivers tend to exceed speed limits, follow other vehicles closely, ignore lane markings, and attempt to pass even when facing oncoming traffic. Many vehicles are not well-maintained; headlights may be either extremely dim or not used at all. Roadways are poorly lit and poorly marked, and many sections have deteriorated surfaces. Some roads have sidewalks or sufficient space for pedestrian traffic; others do not, and pedestrians are forced to walk in or along the roadway. Due to limited street lighting, pedestrians are difficult to see at night. Drivers in both rural and urban areas may frequently expect to encounter and share the road with motorcycles, bicyclists, pedestrians, livestock, and animal carts. Caution and defensive driving techniques are strongly recommended.
While most main roads in Senegal are in relatively good condition for daytime driving, smaller roads are poor by U.S. standards. During the rainy season, many roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Travelers may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where their vehicles and luggage may be searched. Service stations are available along main roads. Due to poor road conditions and the risk of crime, driving outside major cities at night is not recommended. Due to language barriers (outside Dakar, relatively few Senegalese speak French) and the lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult in the event of distress.
For safety reasons, the U.S. Embassy recommends against the use of motorbikes, van taxis ("cars rapides"), and public transportation. They can be dangerous due to overloading, careless driving, inadequate maintenance, and the lack of basic safety equipment such as seat belts. Regulated orange-striped sedan auto taxis are safer, but make sure to agree on a fare before beginning the trip.
In Senegal, one drives on the right-hand side. Vehicles give priority to traffic coming from the right, except at traffic circles, where vehicles already in the circle have the right of way. All drivers are expected to carry the following documents in their vehicles and present them at any time at the request of the police: (1) valid driver's license; (2) valid insurance papers; (3) vehicle registration/matriculation card ("carte grise"); (4) "vignette" tax disc for the current year; and (5) valid identification. If U.S. citizens opt to carry a copy of their U.S. passport rather than the actual book, the copy must be clear enough to identify the driver of the vehicle.
Third-party insurance is required and will cover any damages if you are involved in an accident resulting in injuries, and found not to have been at fault. If you are found to have caused an accident, the penalty ranges from five months to two years in prison, with a possible fine. If you cause an accident which results in a death, the penalty can be as high as five years in prison.
For guidance on what to do if you are in an automobile accident in Senegal, please see Citizen Services page of the U.S. Embassy Dakar web site. Senegalese law prohibits the use of cell phones while driving, unless the driver is using “hands-free” equipment. Protective helmets are mandatory for all bicycle, moped, scooter and motorcycle drivers/riders and passengers.
When police officers stop a vehicle for a traffic violation, the police officer will generally confiscate the driver’s license or ID card until the fine is paid. We encourage you to comply with the request. Sometimes, police officers try to solicit bribes instead of or in addition to the fine. The U.S. Embassy does not encourage paying bribes.
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.