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Ecuador’s New Driving Laws: Safer Driving in Ecuador

Posted in: Ecuador Travel, Living in Ecuador

Not that long ago I wrote about some of the unique driving techniques in Ecuador. Well, thanks to a set of new laws things have dramatically improved.

Ecuador driving laws

Ecuador’s New Driving Laws

Earlier this week there was an article in the Cuenca paper that gives some new statistics for accidents since the new laws went into effect on July 23, 2012. Under the headline: Speed Controls Prevent Accidents (Control de velocidad previene accidentes) the article quotes stats from the National Traffic Director, Juan Ruales. He says  that traffic accidents caused by speeding have reduced 50% and a reduction of 10% of accidents for other causes. It was noted by expats in Quito, Guayaquil and here in Cuenca that the style of driving changed overnight when the laws went into effect.

The article notes that since July 23 (just 7 weeks) there have been 366 drivers arrested and 11,000 have been ticketed for driving over the speed limit.

The first morning that the laws went into effect, there were a number of people arrested in Azuay province. The first person ticketed (Spanish paper) in Azuay was going 108 km/h in a 90 km/h zone. He was fined $87 and lost 6 points off his license.

Ecuador police enforce driving laws

Details of Ecuador’s New Traffic Laws

These laws are not light. The fines are heavy and at a certain point the driver could be sent to prison.

The allowable speed limits depend on the type of vehicle and the type of road. The limits haven’t changed – they just are being enforced now.

There are three categories:

  1. Within the speed limit: Obviously, this is okay and nothing happens. Well, you might get honked at or cut off by other drivers – but the police won’t ticket or arrest you.
  2. Moderate Range: a fine of $87.60 (30% of basic monthly salary, currently $292), loss of 6 points off the license
  3. Out of Moderate Range: fine of $292 (a basic monthly salary), loss of 10 points off the license and 3 days in prison. The driver is arrested on the spot and taken to prison. No trial.

New Driving Laws, Effective July 23, 2012

As you can see in the above graphic, the tolerance level is less in urban areas.

For example, if a car drives 60 km/h in an urban area (with a limit of 50 km/h) the driver is considered as driving out of moderate range and will be fined $292 and go to jail for 3 days.

What is the cost of owning a car in Ecuador?

Have you noticed a change in the driving in Ecuador? Have these laws changed how you drive?  

Chart images copyright El Tiempo Newspaper, Cuenca Ecuador. Learn about Cuenca’s Newspapers.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

21 comments… add one
  • Wayne Noel Dec 26, 2018, 2:43 pm

    I bought a car in 2017 paid all the fines and registered it for 2017 I did the same in 2018 in May.
    In November this year I received a call from Cuenta E Mov which told me the previous owner had a fine for parking incorrectly since 2015 and that I as the present owner have to pay it.The previous owner has migranted.What can be done to prevent the payment of this fine?

    • Bryan Haines Dec 31, 2018, 7:02 am

      I don’t know how to avoid it.

      When we bought our first car, we also had a stack of fines with penalties. It was just easier to pay than dispute. There is a site that you can check for some multas (and you can ask at the office before purchase) but these didn’t show up and then surfaced when we went to register the car.

  • Joyce Space Apr 16, 2018, 9:08 pm

    What defines a heavy vehicle in Ecuador? We are driving a 7 meter Sprinter camper van with dually back tires. We do not consider ourselves a heavy vehicle but we were stopped by police for driving in the middle lane when heavy vehicles are supposed to be in the right lane. He would not tell us what defines a heavy vehicle. He just kept saying we are a heavy vehicle.

  • Jen & Brent Oct 14, 2014, 10:58 pm

    Hi Brian,
    we are a couple of fellow Canadians, looking to begin our retirement in the not too far future and Ecuador has been on our radar for awhile now. We also loved Panama, but missed the boat on that one as we watch the prices climb steadily….not about to let it happen twice! We are coming to Ecuador in Jan 2015 for a whirlwind self drive tour and we are wondering if it is worth driving between Quito and Cuenca? We could fly if we are not missing too much as we will still drive from
    Cuenca down to Salinas, along the Coast to Manta and then fly back up to Quito from Manta. We will have 10 days on the ground to see as much as possible….
    if you could offer any suggestions, other than “more time”, we would really appreciate it. Thanx Brian….
    J & B

  • Todd Kinzle Oct 7, 2014, 7:41 pm

    I have heard mixed reports on whether or not I will be able to buy and drive a large van in Ecuador. I am told I will have to have a commercial license for anything that seats more than 5 people. Do you know if that’s true?


    • Bryan Haines Oct 13, 2014, 2:27 pm

      I don’t have a reference link, but it isn’t true. If you want to commercially transport people you’ll need a commercial (professional) license. There are lots of 7 passenger vehicles that are okay. A friend has a Hyundai H1 (I think it seats 12) and has a standard license.

  • Bob Watts Dec 16, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Bryan, am i safe to assume the the vision test can be taken with prescription eyeglasses and it gets noted on your license as a driving requirement?

    • Bryan Haines Dec 16, 2013, 4:27 pm

      Yes, glasses won’t be a problem. I don’t know if it is noted on the license.

  • Tom Warden Jan 16, 2013, 7:16 am

    Glad to hear the good news about traffic safety there! Besides inevitably vastly reducing the number of road injuries and fatalities, it makes the country far more appealing to potential visitors and aspiring residents alike.

  • Stewart Jan 12, 2013, 6:32 am

    Well in Quito, there’s still a lot of traffic, but there are a lot of police as well.
    A couple of weeks ago I got a “multa” (fine) for parking my car for 5 minutes on the curb. It was dumb of me, and I saw the cop as he was placing the sticker on the window, but there was no talking him out of it.
    The cops have a little electronic pad (palm pilot?) and he already uploaded to the system. $146 I ashamed to say, but I paid it next day or the multa goes higher.
    Please drive (and park) safe!

  • William Fitzpatrick Oct 1, 2012, 4:00 pm

    The siteworks just fine from here in Bahia de Caraquez…….

    • Bryan Haines Oct 1, 2012, 4:04 pm

      Thanks William – so glad to hear that its working properly!

  • Chuck Watson Sep 13, 2012, 7:08 pm

    I just drove from Cuenca to Quito and back. The traffic was muy tranquilo. No one passed me on a blind curve, and we all moved along at or below the speed limit. It was a very refreshing change.

    Did you know that there are now over 20 hidden speed cameras monitoring the highways?

    • Bryan Haines Sep 13, 2012, 7:21 pm

      I’m glad to hear it Chuck. I’ve yet to drive north – we have always flown. Someday soon, I think.

      I heard mentioned about the cameras, but nothing definite. It suggests this is going to be permanent.

      Thanks for your comment!

  • Lynnda & David Sep 12, 2012, 4:12 pm

    Bryan – Even though we have experienced driving Mexico, London, Prague & the Ottobahn, i will admit the various posts for Ecuador caused me a bit of concern. We will be visiting Nov/Dec this year for a scouting expedition. Thank you for your tremendous efforts to keep the information up to date.

  • Legh Scruggs Sep 12, 2012, 1:58 pm

    I really appreciate your articles. You guy’s are my window to Ecuadorian life. Hope in the near future to visit and see if Cuenca is right for me.

  • Cathy Lopez Sep 12, 2012, 10:44 am

    Now if the cars and taxis only had functioning seatbelts!

    • Bryan Haines Sep 12, 2012, 11:17 am

      It would sure make things safer, wouldn’t it! It is the law, just not an enforced one…

  • Barb Hemphill Sep 12, 2012, 9:41 am

    We were there last year. Now they need to make pedestrian laws! Hope that change is coming soon.

  • Robin Sep 12, 2012, 9:32 am

    Good news about improved driving! Do you know if there have been improvements along the coast too? I am a regular reader, and you’ve inspired my husband and I to make our first trip to Ecuador in December. We’re hoping to relocate in 2 years…
    Thanks for all the great info!

    • Bryan Haines Sep 12, 2012, 11:21 am

      A good friend just returned from the Coast yesterday and he said it was like driving on in the U.S. Another friend from Guayaquil noted that the drivers are better (obey the law more often) than in the Sierra. I still haven’t driven on the coast so I can’t add my opinion.

      All the best on your plans!

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