UPDATED: September 2012
Brazilians know how to drive well, but once behind the wheel, some show a high degree of imprudence, irresponsibility and just plain wacko behavior. Brazilians are by no means the worse and probably better than many drivers in the World, but still, when you drive here they will “never” let you relax. The nicest people you could ever meet turn into inconsiderate, aggressive, dangerous drivers when they hit the streets. Combine this with too many bad streets and highways, lack of or poor traffic signs, too many motorcycles in the cities and too many trucks on the major highways and it all adds up to an interesting driving experience.
BTW: Brazil has had three F1 World Champions and you will hear them joke that these great world-class drivers learned their skill while growing up driving in Brazil.
British Embassy Safety Tips:
Drive carefully in Brazil. The style of driving and standards are very different from the UK. Brazil has a much higher road accident rate compared to the UK. Brazil has a high road accident rate; in 2005 there were 35,000 deaths on the roads – 19 people per 100,000 of the population died in Brazil compared to 5.5 people per 100,000 of the population in the UK.
You are allowed to drive in Brazil on a UK driving licence together with an authorised Portuguese translation. Carry these documents with you and a copy of your passport.
Brazilian traffic laws
impose severe penalties for a number of traffic offenses. Enforcement ranges from sporadic to non-existent, so motorists should not assume that others will necessarily follow even the most fundamental and widely accepted rules of the road.
Some important local rules and customs include the following:
All states have seat belt laws, but enforcement varies from state to state.
Child Car Seats: Some states require child car seats, but they are not universally available or affordable, and enforcement is also lax. As a result, most children are not secured in car seats.
The maximum speed limit on major, divided highways is 120kmph (74 mph). Lower limits (usually 60kmph (40 mph)) are often posted in urban areas, depending on the road and the nature of the neighborhood. Speed limits are widely ignored and rarely enforced. Many towns and cities have marked electronic/photographic devices (“Fiscalisacao Electronica”), which verify speed and snap photos of violators’ cars and license plates as a basis for issuing speeding tickets. Brazilian drivers tend to brake suddenly when encountering these devices.
Yielding the Right of Way:
Drivers must yield the right of way to cars on their right. Compliance with stop signs is rarely enforced; so many motorists treat them as yield signs.
Driving Under the Influence:
Drivers are in violation of the law if blood/alcohol level reaches 0.06 percent.
Turns on Red Lights:
Not permitted, except for right turns where there is a sign with an arrow pointing right and the words “Livre a Direita.”
Penalties for Drivers Involved in an Accident Resulting in Injury or Death:
In addition to possible criminal charges and penalties, compensatory and punitive damages may also apply.
Local Driving Customs:
Drivers often use flashes or wave a hand out of the window to signal other drivers to slow down. Drivers will often break suddenly to slow down for the electronic speed traps mentioned above. In addition, pedestrian “zebra” crossings are strictly observed in some places (especially in Brasilia) and ignored most everywhere else.
For general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please refer to our Road Safety page .
For specific information concerning Brazilian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Brazilian National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at http://www.embratur.gov.br/ .
For additional information from other sources in Brazil about road safety and specific information about accident statistics, Brazilian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please see the following web sites: http://www.dprf.gov.br (Brazilian Federal Highway Police, in Portuguese only), and http://www.transportes.gov.br (Ministry of Transportation, in Portuguese only).