Traffic and Road Conditions in Uruguay

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 Uruguayan Ministry of Transportation is responsible for maintaining safe road conditions countrywide. The Uruguayan Ministry of Interior highway police (tel. 1954) are responsible for traffic safety on highways and other roads beyond city limits. In urban and suburban areas, transit police and municipal employees share road safety responsibilities.

You may drive using your foreign driver’s license in Uruguay. Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Seat belts are mandatory. Headlights must be on when driving on highways and other inter-city roads 24 hours a day. Children under 12 years must ride in the back seat. Motorcyclists must wear helmets. The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited. Right turns on red lights and left turns at most intersections marked with a stoplight are not permitted. Drivers approaching an intersection from the right or already in traffic circles have the right of way. Flashing high beams indicate intent to pass or to continue through unmarked intersections. Many drivers ignore speed limits, lane markings and traffic signs. If you plan to drive, use caution and drive defensively.

Drivers who are caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be fined and their license may be confiscated and retained for up to six months. Drivers who are involved in accidents that result in injury or death are brought before a judge who will decide if incarceration is warranted.

Uruguayan law requires drivers to have both hands on the steering wheel at all times while driving. Failure to do so may bring a charge of distracted driving ("imprudencia en el manejo"). This includes talking on a cell phone and drinking "mate" (a traditional Uruguayan herbal beverage) while driving. The fine charged is approximately $25.00 (U.S.). Speed limits are posted on highways and some main roads. Most taxis have no seat belts in the back seat. Cycling outside the capital or small towns is hazardous due to a scarcity of bike paths, narrow road shoulders, and unsafe driving practices.

Illumination, pavement markings, and road surfaces are sometimes poor. Route 1, which runs between Montevideo and Colonia or Punta del Este, and Route 2, between Rosario and Fray Bentos, are particularly accident-ridden because of heavy tourist traffic. The frequency of road accidents rises during the summer beach season (December to March), Carnaval (mid-to-late February), and Easter Week.

Within Montevideo, the emergency number for the police, fire department, rescue squad, and ambulance service is 911. In the rest of the country, dial 02-911 to connect with the Montevideo central emergency authority, which will then contact the local emergency service.

SEMM (tel. 159) and UCM (tel. 147), Montevideo-based ambulance services manned by doctors, have agreements with emergency medical units in other cities. Coverage in rural areas may be limited.

For emergency roadside assistance, call the Automobile Club of Uruguay at 1707, "Car Up" at 0800-1501, or the Automobile Center of Uruguay at 2-408-6131/2091.

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2019 Edition