Subscribe by Email!
February 28th, 2010
I have been waiting patiently for many months for someone in the government of Costa Rica (ummm – that would be the diputados), to realize just how idiotic is the new ley de tránsito (traffic law) that goes into effect tomorrow, March 1, 2010.
In fact I have re-written this post about 3 times, the last time being Friday when they decided not to enforce some laws requiring everyone carry fire extinguishers, those reflective triangle thingies, and a couple of other items (like child seats) that they probably should have left in! I was running out of time… but my guardian angel told me to wait until Sunday…
So I did wait, only to learn last night that the least likely group of all (that would be the transit police officers union) voted overwhelmingly to not enforce the new laws, but will enforce really tough drunk driving laws and those regarding reckless driving! Sadly, those are the laws the courts are ignoring with only eleven convictions in over a year. I am thinking now that the police officers (that would be the group with the brains) should perhaps trade places with the diputados!
Interested? Read on!
Sometimes Costa Rica is kinda like that old fairy tale about the king has no clothes. Everyone sees something is not going to work well, but they plunge ahead. Oh… yeah! I guess the USA is about the same, with pols trying to force the stupid, hugely expensive. and almost universally hated Obamacare, down the throats of voters who already know how dumb it is… HA! And you thought Costa Rica was a better option! But I digress!
So immediately, the transit chief starts making noises (probably correctly) that officers who do not enforce these new laws will be derelict in their duties. The diputados, not to be outdone by management, join in the hue and cry for enforcement. Should be interesting!
OK, so what is the big deal and why won’t the new laws work?
Basically, they are overkill. Costa Rica drivers are arguably the world’s worst. I have driven in a lot of countries, but drivers here just scare me to death. Therefore, new laws are a good idea… right?
Yeah… unless you make the fines so large that they can come close to the salary of the police office whose job it is to enforce them.
Oh… and before I begin, there is also a point system. Once you get 50 points, you lose your license for two years.
Let’s look at a few: (If you want to know how much in US dollars, the formula is colones/550 = $$$ Example: 165,000 colones = about $300.00
Red light / U Turn – 165,000 colones – 20 points ($300.00 – now you do the math!)
Taxi or bus drivers who are rude to passengers 90,800 colones (no points) (not a joke)
Talking on a cell phone while driving – 165,000 colones – 20 points (castration would be better!)
Taxis that fail to use the meter (la maria) – 90,800 colones (no points)
Driving without a license – 227,000 colones ($410.00) – 25 points – HUH?
Bribing a police officer – 227,000 colones – 20 points
OK so why am I on a rant?
These fines, for many Costa Ricans, can represent all or close the monthly income of some families! The last time I checked, a rookie police officer only made perhaps $250,000 colones (around $450.00) per month.
Now what do you suppose will happen when that officer stops someone to issue a $300.00 traffic ticket? Or maybe a drunk driving citation that costs the driver 293,000 colones ($530.00) plus loss of license, car and jail time?
To put this into perspective, it would be like someone in the USA, earning $60,000 per year, having to pay about $4,000.00 for blowing a red light.
Now, the police officers union is also thinking that trying to ticket a driver who may not only lose his license but may be unable to feed his family or pay his mortgage just might tend to cause a conflict. Gee… ya think? The actual wording (translated) is that “officers could be exposed to dangerous situations. Now you wags could argue that that is their job… but clearly, the officers do not relish these types of confrontations.
Oh… and did I forget to mention? When you go to court, you are asked about your income and if it is larger, these fines can get larger! Ahhh, and as these fines are tied to a base number, they will rise automatically every year. Just gets better and better.
Now…. raise your hand if you think any of this may affect tourists? Tourists won’t care about the points, but they can get tagged with the fines…even after they leave the country if renting a car… and they won’t fight it. There are many, many stories about bribes being solicted and/or offered. Most are true. The nice thing is that tourists won’t report an officer for bribery either way. They will just pay up and move on!
Another goofy think is that all new and (as I understand it) first time renewals of drivers licenses will now require a psychological exam! Cost will be about $30.00 and INS, your friendly local monopolistic insurance company will not be assisting. This means first time and maybe first renewal of licenses will cost a whopping 85,000 colones!
Life goes on. The law will be in effect for most of you who will be reading this with your Monday morning coffee. I have no idea if it will be enforced…. Be well, be careful out there… and pura vida!Filed under Costa Rica, Costa Rica Law, Drivers License Costa Rica, Driving in Costa Rica, Expatriate Life, Tourism, Travel, Travel to Costa Rica | Comments (19)