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The Risks of Public Transportation in Lima, Peru

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I can't believe I am writing about this cities public transportation problems again, maybe since I just saw a bus crash only a few feet from my home!  Just when I've raised my white flag and assimilated to the fact that traffic and everything pertaining to driving rules and regulations for the most part ceases to exist, something like this happens that gets my blood boiling again.  Growing up in the States has truly spoiled me this much I know for certain since I can never seem to get over such differences in lifestyle.

Last week I witnessed a large public bus try to pass a car by going into oncoming traffic only to collide with a large truck and veer onto the sidewalk and into the side of a building.  This display of the bus driver's complete disregard or lack of concern for the safety of his passengers aboard reflected a very common trend in mentality.  In Peru, one would argue that the passenger sacrifices certain securities in exchange for shorter travel times and quick arrival to destination, however at some point one has to ask whether the risks of public transportation in Lima are worth saving a few minutes on the highway.

To better understand the situation it is important for the reader to realize that Peru has one of the highest transit accident rates in Latin America, second only to Argentina whom of course has ten times the number of vehicles.  According to a study conducted by the Universidad Católica de Lima in 2007, in 2006 the number of victims involved in public transit accidents (in all of Peru) totaled 77,840 of which 6% were fatal.  Studies futher indicate that the number of accidents registered in the country continue to rise from year to year, even more surprising is that the number of fatalities rise with this trend as well.

The Ministry of Communication and Transportation published statistics that placed the most common cause of vehicular accidents was due to excessive speed (31.8%), which was followed by driver recklessness (25.4%).  This doesn't surprise me in the least bit since these are the problems which continue to persist today on the highways and streets of Lima. 

The publication further goes on to point out that an estimated 7,000 public transport drivers operate under suspended drivers licenses (for infringing upon public transit laws), of which shockingly 70% operate in Lima!  In Lima, there exists this almost complete disregard for traffic laws, which is apparent when a stop sign is taken a merely a suggestion by drivers rather than as an obligation (god forbid you ever try to cross at a cross-walk and a car has to stop at a designated stop sign, you might just get yelled at and insulted by the driver for not giving him/her the right of way).

How is one suppose to feel safe when the enter a public bus and put their lives in the safety of a driver whose only concern is to pick up as many passengers as possible while competing with other buses both rival and fellow company drivers.  Don't even get me started about the travel buses that transport citizens across the country while trying to beat the clock at all costs.

According to the Director Juan Tapia, of the Center of Investigation for Terrestrial Transport (Cidatt), "Peru has one of the highest index for transit related deaths in Latin America, with 30 fatalities for every 10,000 vehicles."  Director Tapia also stated that from 2001 to 2008 that the number of death and injury related transit accidents within the country (excluding Lima Metropolitan Area) has decreased by 6%, where in Lima it has increased 82%, with the common cause being the recklessness of drivers.  In this study the most common victim were pedestrians.

Some believe that the problem with the large incidence rates is due in part to a lack of a structured authoritative body to better enforce the plague of transit problems in Peru and Lima.  At the moment the streets remain unsafe and the risk still exists if not stronger than before when someone chooses to take public transportation.  This danger is also present for those who choose to drive their own personal vehicle on the roads and highways of Peru.  How does one drive safely while respecting the transit laws when many do not, it gives a whole new meaning to defensive driving.


Universidad La Católica de Lima

TerraPeru News

1 Responses to The Risks of Public Transportation in Lima, Peru

  1. Rickie Glock Says:
  2. I am also from the USA.I live in Lima and here in Lima they drive like animals!I call them rats.The police never enforce laws and get pay off when they do.I learned to cut them off and run red lights also.I never stop at stop signs either. It's like children learning to drive. It makes me laugh but it can be dangerous and caution must be used here in Lima.They will back out from a drive way on to a highway and yell if you don't let them in the street.All I can say is they are a bunch of rats when it comes to driving.The buses are worse!


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