Costa Rica's New Traffic Laws Take Effect September 23, 2009

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Costa Rica Blogger has made no secret as to what driving in Costa Rica is like; "dangerous", "insane", "crazy", etc., etc., etc.

Driving in Costa Rica IS Loco
Cars with wrap-around bumpers are a mandatory-minimum in Costa Rica!

It appears even Costa Rica's President agrees as he is quoted as likening Costa Ricans to 'Dr. Jekyl and Mr .Hyde', in reference to the widespread recklessness encountered on the roadways of a nation recognized for peace and natural beauty.

It came as no surprise then, when Presidente Oscar Arias supported the passage of a sweeping reform to the Costa Rica traffic laws (Ley de Transito) that intends to rectify the situation by force, and as rapidly as possible.

As of September 23rd, 2009 Costa Rica will put all drivers and the new traffic law system, to the test!

The cornerstone of the new reform is the computerization of drivers’ license records, and the use of a strict and stringent license points system to force drivers to re-evaluate and change their driving practices. All license holders will be credited 50 points to their Costa Rican license. With each infraction issued by the Transito for roadway violations (including non-moving violations), points will be deducted from the electronic file of the license holder. Additionally, fines ranging from $391.00 for driving a motorcycle with an un-helmeted minor -to- $39 for throwing garbage on a public roadway will be levied.

Costa Rica child without helmet
Child on moped with no helmet = minus 20 points + $391 fine!

The Costa Rica Roadway Security Council (Consejo de Seguridad Vial -or- COSEVI) will be the record keeper for the drivers license points system and in charge of collecting all fines.

Laws are great but the success of any such changes hinge on enforcement. To address this issue the Costa Rica Ministry of Public Transportation (M.O.P.T) is adding 400 new Transit Police Officers (Policia de Transito) to its existing 800 member force.

Costa Rica Policía de Tránsito
Costa Rica Policía de Tránsito performing roadside vehicle checks

Of particular interest to me as a Costa Rica driver are the new laws that will most affect the currently out-of-control motorcycle and moped drivers.

Costa Rica moto madness
Costa Rica Moto Madness

  • Speeding in excess of 120kph / 74.5mph (50 points/2 year license suspension + $293 fine)
  • Minor passenger without helmet (50 points/2 year license suspension + $391)
  • Running a red light or stop sign (25 points + $293)
  • Turning into an intersection without yielding to a pedestrian already crossing (25 points + $293)
  • Reckless driving / speeding in excess of 20kph / 12.4mph above posted
    speed limit (20 points + $293)
  • Using a cell phone without a hands-free system [yes they do this while driving motorcycles!] (20 points +$293)
  • Speeding in excess of 25kph / 15.5mph in front of a hospital, clinic, or school (20 points + $293)
  • Riding without a helmet (20 points + $293)
  • Passing through the middle of traffic, exploiting spaces between vehicles, zig-zagging through traffic whether the traffic is stopped or moving or at stop lights (15 points + $196)
  • Incorrect passing, passing on the right in any circumstance, improper passing (15 points + $196)
  • Passing on left in oncoming traffic lanes in no passing zones (10 points + $293 fine)
  • Not keeping distance with the vehicle in front of you or tailgating (10 points +$117)
  • Illegal U-turn (10 points + $293 fine)

Costa Rica motorcycle accident
Typical Costa Rica accident: motorcycle attempted illegal high-speed pass on right but got caught when car attempted legal right turn into parking lot.

Please forgive me for being pessimistic, but I personally will believe it when I see these sweeping changes actually being enforced ... especially in areas outside of downtown San Jose where traffic police are few and far between. For all our sake I hope to be proven wrong!

For those that do wish to maintain your Costa Rica driving privileges or will soon be in need of obtaining your Costa Rica national drivers license (also a new requirement) or even for those considering renting a car and driving while on vacation here in Costa Rica ... I highly recommend a complete understanding of the new Costa Rica traffic laws.

There is no better way to achieve all the new information than "Shorty's Guide to the 2009 Nueva Ley de Tránsito", a 181 page eBook that translates the new Costa Rica traffic laws into English along with great overviews.

Shorty's English Guide to the new 2009 Costa Rica traffic laws
Shorty's Guide to the 2009 Nueva Ley de Tránsit only $9.95 USD

Shorty's traffic guide section highlights:

  1. “QUICK LIST” OF THE BIGGEST CHANGES

  2. NEW DEVICES REQUIRED OF EVERYONE
    Child Safety Seats, Helmet law, Hands-Free cels, Fire extinguisher, and more

  3. DRIVERS LICENSES AND THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM
    How it works, Guide to points deductions, Appealing, Renewals, Complaints

  4. GUIDE TO THE NEW FINES
    Guide to the new increased amounts according to severity of infraction, as of Sept. 23, 2009

  5. VEHICULAR RESTRICTIONS FOR SAN JOSE
    Map of restricted area, and who’s restricted on which days

  6. ROADWAY CONDITIONS
    How much roadway does Costa Rica have, and the condition it’s in

  7. GENERAL HIGHWAY MAPS OF COSTA RICA
    Highway and topographical, links to the official MOPT online roadway network maps

  8. DRIVING TIMES AND DISTANCES
    Distances between Costa Rica towns, and travel times by car, boat, plane

  9. STATISTICS
    Historical statistics on population, and traffic accidents by age, role, month, mortality

  10. PHONE NUMBERS / ADDRESSES / WEBSITES
    Emergency, Accidents, MOPT, COSEVI, RITEVE, Transito, INS, Registro, Police, etc.

  11. ANNEX: Text of the Reforma de la Ley de Transito (Ley 8696)
    Translated (auto) text of the complete Reform to the Transit Law for reference, followed by the original Spanish text.

Lets hope these new laws and enforcement helps toward the safety of all - as for myself, I can't wait to see some real results.

¡Pura Seguridad Nueva de Tráfico!

*see our other blog posts on Driving in Costa Rica:

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Drivers in CR can solve the US national debt

Having driven for over 40 years and untold miles, I've seen about every kind of driver. California traffic is where I learned that ANYTHING can happen. Even when drivers are following the rules, machinery and the things loaded on them don't. Critters (including a camel outside of Barstow) can suddenly appear in front of you and change everything. From driving all over the US, in Bangkok and Paris and Peru, I've seen stuff that you just can't make up.

Costa Rica is populated with people blinded by windshields with their common sense knowledge of physics wiped from their minds with the twist of an ignition key. But if you want to see a total disconnect from reality, forget CR, Peru is utterly without description. When you see another car near you, just think, pissed-off escaping homicidal felon with a death wish, amped out on crack, ether, and Jack Daniels, rushing to his former job at the Post Office.

I hope CR pulls off a successful change in the (stunningly stupid) driving habits of an otherwise intelligent people. The revenue they'll generate from tickets in a week will put them in a position to loan the US enough to cure the national debt. I hope other Latin American countries follow suit, (ESPECIALLY PERU!!!).

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