The other day I drove in Salvador for the first time. It was not as scary as I thought it would be, but very different from the US. It's pretty intense out there on the roads, but now I understand the draw of having a car here. I felt at least 90% safer driving than I do walking around and taking the bus.
Vilma took her drivers license test on Thursday morning and wanted to practice driving beforehand, so we rented a car for one day. I took advantage of the rental to drive to a couple of my classes, and I must say that I felt like I was living in the lap of luxury. It was really hard to return the car, knowing it also meant returning to a life of walking and riding the bus.
The things that are most difficult to adjust to on the roads here are the way that folks don't really stay in their lanes and also how the motorcycles will drive between cars, super fast, without regard for the fact that your car could kill them much easier than their motorcycle could kill you. I drove in rush hour traffic, and it was difficult to change lanes with the motorcycles constantly zooming by, usually out of nowhere.
All of my students have cars, and now I know why. It's much quicker and more convenient to drive, but the more important reason is that the safety factor increases by a lot. Of course you do have to keep your eyes open for carjackers or guys who will throw a rock through your window and grab your purse (best idea, put your purse in the trunk). But this happens much less than the street crime that is a daily battle here for pedestrians and bus riders.
Now I just have to get that winning lottery ticket and I'll be driving every day too!