Traffic accidents pose by far the greatest hazard for visitors to Panama. Traffic in Panama tends to be chaotic, road conditions poor, and enforcement of driving laws lax. About one person a day is killed on the roads, which is a lot for a country of 3.3million people, many of whom don’t have cars. Be alert at all times on the road, and if you’re a passenger don’t be shy about asking a speeding driver to slow down.
If you’re involved in an accident, do not move the cars—it’s against the law. Stay on the scene until the tránsito (transit police) arrive. If someone is injured or it’s otherwise an emergency, call the police emergency number (104) or the fire department (103). Panama has been gradually rolling out an ambulance dispatch service (911) in urban areas. Once the tránsito arrive they’ll fill out a report that will include your description of the accident. Be fully cooperative and polite. Contact your insurance company or the car-rental agency as soon as possible.
Panamanian attitudes toward safety in general tend to be far more relaxed than those in, say, Northern Europe and North America. Accidents, including traffic accidents, are the second leading cause of death in Panama, after cancer.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition