New York: What is happening with traffic in Puerto Plata, the leading cruise tourism destination in the Dominican Republic? A paradisiacal and magical place with Victorian architecture and bathed in the warm blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, a gateway for tourists from around the world.
If the Minister of Tourism of the Dominican Republic, David Collado Morales, and the government do not take urgent measures to stop what has tragically become widespread chaos in urban transportation in the province of Puerto Plata, threatening not only society, which is already paying a price of deaths, mutilations, and high hospitalization costs; but also tourism and the dream of turning Puerto Plata into the leading cruise HUB of the entire Caribbean, seriously threatened by the non-compliance with traffic laws. (I was a victim of an accident, which I will discuss in the next installment with all the details).
On December 18, 2023, local tourism authorities announced the simultaneous arrival of five cruise ships in Puerto Plata, with 27,313 tourists on board. When that enormous number of tourists left the cruise ships and dispersed through the narrow streets of the ancient city of Puerto Plata, founded in 1502 by Nicolás de Ovando in the place chosen by the Great Admiral of the Indies, Christopher Columbus, and began to board buses, taxis, and others on foot, it seemed like a carnival day announcing the revitalization of an economy that lay in ignominy and abandonment.
The urban area of the province, known as San Felipe de Puerto Plata, is already a disaster. Saturated with thousands of motorcycles circulating in complete disregard for traffic laws, driving at high speeds, without plates, without helmets, many with three and four people, including children on board, running red lights, going in the opposite direction, hitting pedestrians at crosswalks, without a driver’s license, and to top it off, a growing number of Haitian citizens who have invaded the city of Puerto Plata driving motorcycles without any documentation, taking over the streets, conducting clandestine races on main roads under the influence of illicit substances, turning the city back to the stone age, becoming a ticking time bomb that has already begun to harm cruise tourism.
No province had more traffic accidents than Puerto Plata during Christmas 2023
No province in the Dominican Republic had more traffic accidents than Puerto Plata during Christmas 2023 despite having fewer inhabitants than Santo Domingo, Santiago, Distrito Nacional, San Cristóbal, and La Altagracia. Puerto Plata only has 338,354 inhabitants, according to the National Census 2022 results. From Saturday, December 23, until 6:00 pm on Monday, December 25, according to bulletin number 3 from the Emergency Operations Center (COE), 125 accidents occurred in the first phase of the Christmas operation. The province of Puerto Plata reported the most accidents (8.8%).
The Dominican Republic has the highest mortality rate caused by traffic injuries in the world.
According to a report published by “The World of Statistics” in May 2023, the Dominican Republic ranks first in the world in the list of countries with the highest mortality rate caused by injuries in traffic accidents. The country experiences 65 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. It is followed by Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand, with 41, 39, 36, and 32 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
The most concerning data is revealed by the Emergency Operations Center (COE) of the Dominican Republic, which places Puerto Plata as one of the provinces with the highest incidence of injuries due to traffic accidents.
Ally falls short, and the incidence of injuries from traffic accidents in the Dominican Republic is much higher than the reported figures. It is no secret that there is still a lot of inconsistency in updating the country’s traffic accident data systems, which does not allow an efficient capture of incidents. When this happens exponentially, we will also see a surge in accident statistics, which could mean the reality is even darker.
The last stop for Puerto Plata’s tourist destination is compliance with the law.
In the province of Puerto Plata, road safety is a relevant issue that requires attention. The government of the Dominican Republic has to choose between the widespread chaos that represents traffic in the urban area of the province and the country or starting with a strict application of Law 63-17 on Mobility, Land Transport, Traffic, and Road Safety of the Dominican Republic. There must be a radical change in applying this law, which only has 360 articles, to end the shameful panorama represented by the grim statistics of road accidents.
The time has come to transform the National Institute of Traffic and Land Transport (INTRANT) and the General Directorate of Traffic and Land Transport Safety (DIGESETT). These organizations must be transformed into instruments for reinforcing the law; the time has come to decide between the widespread chaos and losing the growing cruise tourism in Puerto Plata or applying law and order.
This is a developing story; return to this newspaper for more updates.”