Costa Rica's New Traffic Laws Take Effect September 23, 2009
Costa Rica Blogger has made no secret as to what driving in Costa Rica is like; "dangerous", "insane", "crazy", etc., etc., etc.
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.
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.
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.
- 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)
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 traffic guide section highlights:
“QUICK LIST” OF THE BIGGEST CHANGES
NEW DEVICES REQUIRED OF EVERYONE
Child Safety Seats, Helmet law, Hands-Free cels, Fire extinguisher, and more
DRIVERS LICENSES AND THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM
How it works, Guide to points deductions, Appealing, Renewals, Complaints
GUIDE TO THE NEW FINES
Guide to the new increased amounts according to severity of infraction, as of Sept. 23, 2009
VEHICULAR RESTRICTIONS FOR SAN JOSE
Map of restricted area, and who’s restricted on which days
How much roadway does Costa Rica have, and the condition it’s in
GENERAL HIGHWAY MAPS OF COSTA RICA
Highway and topographical, links to the official MOPT online roadway network maps
DRIVING TIMES AND DISTANCES
Distances between Costa Rica towns, and travel times by car, boat, plane
Historical statistics on population, and traffic accidents by age, role, month, mortality
PHONE NUMBERS / ADDRESSES / WEBSITES
Emergency, Accidents, MOPT, COSEVI, RITEVE, Transito, INS, Registro, Police, etc.
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:
- The Luckiest Man (still) ALIVE in Costa Rica
- Driving in Costa Rica makes NASCAR look like a gentleman's sport ...
- ...and what's the real deal with those Costa Rica motorcycle helmet laws?
- Costa Rica Traffic Sign Suggestions (humor)