Mexican Speed Bumps

Mexicans Are Serious About Their Speed Bumps

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If you decide to drive in Mexico, perhaps more than any other street sign you need to be aware of the ones that say “Topes”, or “Reductor de Velocidad,” both of which are usually accompanied by a graphic of two rounded mounds. These signs indicate a speed bump in the road, but unlike speed bumps in the U.S., the Mexican speed bumps mean business.

Speed bump decorated with tiles in Bacalar

It's a cultural thing - lacking concrete, they make speed bumps out of thick marine ropes

With the exception of toll roads, topes litter the highways whenever passing through a town. Most of them are high mounds of poured concrete – some are so large that they actually have a long flat top – and in some cases the towns have decorated the bumps with inlaid tiles or painted designs. Even the smallest settlements have gotten into the mania; if they don’t have the funds to construct speed bumps they improvise by laying a long stretch of heavy rope across the road. And what’s even more interesting (and frustrating), is that locals slow down to a crawl to cross these bumps, no matter how small. In the case of ropes and smaller berms, in my opinion it makes the car bounce more to cross at such a slow speed. But I just consider it another one of the charming, if a bit mysterious, cultural traditions of Mexico.

15 Comments on “Mexicans Are Serious About Their Speed Bumps

  1. The topes are definitely one of those cultural phenomenons. I have family in Mexico, and when we are driving around in their car and encounter a tope (which is all the time), my uncle says, “Suman la panza” (“Suck in your stomachs”).

    The passengers sucking in their tummies supposedly lightens the load and helps a packed car make it over the bump. I believed it when I was a kid; now it’s just a joke.

    • Anis: That is just precious – “suman la panza.” I must remember that. We had a similar thing. Whenever my Dad used the turn signal he would tell us that “Cahootie” – the little man inside the car – made the light blink, and that we had to tell Cahootie to turn it off. For years we turned corners talking to Cahootie, thinking we had successfully convinced him to shut the light off. Thank you so much for sharing. Barbara

  2. Speed bumps on the highways sounds dangerous to me. Sounds like solme of these speed bumps could almost be registered as hills or mountains…Maybe it does keep the road toll down as people would have to slow down.

  3. I took a friend’s car down the Mexican border once and she told me to make sure to cross over on foot and not by car. It was speed bumps like these (and other reasons) that she didn’t want me to take the car there.

  4. Ah, the topes. A couple of years ago I went on a gal pal road trip to San Carlos. It was our first time driving in Mexico. After bouncing over one or two at regular speed, we began sharing tope lookout duty. Your article brought back memories and made me smile. Thanks.

  5. Hello! I’m Mexican and I hate that speed bumps are everywhere around here… but I think the reason for having them is the not so nice way of driving of many people here :(

    • Hi Ayngelina: You’re definitely right about it working, although I can’t figure out why!

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  7. Oh my gosh! That was one of the few things I thought was REALLY annoying about Mexico. Geez they go crazy with those things. And for a person that gets car sick easy….it wasn’t always bearable.

  8. Having driven nearly 20,000 miles all over Mexico so far we can attest to the fact that Mexicans love their topes (speed bumps, sleeping policemen). They come in all shapes & sizes, they come as individuals or in great numbers, they come expectedly or by complete suprise. But make no mistake, they ARE everywhere.

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