Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Costa Rica traffic laws

To these I say, it's about time! I read or heard that Costa Rica is second in the entire world in number of traffic accidents (on average, one person dies each day here in a traffic accident). I can't imagine what driving in the number one country must be like. It's bad enough here.

So, the government has passed a whole slew of new laws, though for most of them, you won't actually get fined until August 2009, the exception being drunk driving. They've already been hauling people away for that. Good thing, that. Under these new laws, you start out with 0 points on your license. When you get up to 50 points, your license is suspended for two years and after two years, the points go down (not completely; after 2 years they go to 30 points, and so on every year you go without infractions). If you manage to get yourself a 30-point infraction, and after one year you have no more infractions, you can take a "good driver" course and have your points reduced 80%. There's a whole article at La Nacion, if you can read Spanish, or do a Google translate to read it badly in English. Otherwise, here's a rundown of the fines:
  • Running through a stop sign/light: ¢165.000 + 20 points
  • Passing on a double yellow line: ¢113.500 + 25 points
  • Parking your truck badly (hee hee): ¢227.000 + 25 points
  • Talking on your cell phone while driving (some Escazu byatches are going to be real upset about this one): ¢165.000 + 20 points
  • Making an illegal U-turn: ¢165.000 + 10 points
  • Driving without a license: ¢227.000 + 25 points (this seems like it should be a red card infraction; do it once and you're out!)
  • Attempting to bribe a transit official (again, hee hee, who hasn't?): ¢227.000 + 20 points
  • Driving a pirate (unofficial) taxi: ¢227.000 + 25 points
  • Driving a modified car (not entirely sure what this means, actually; esposo says like for street racing): ¢113.500 + 15 points
  • Driving without being inscribed as a driver (totally not sure what this one means, as in, what's the difference between this and driving without a license?): ¢227.000 + 50 points
  • Driving without a current marchamo (that's license tags to us Norteamericanos): ¢170.000 + 20 points
  • Drivers who make stops in spots where making stops is not allowed: ¢227.000 + 10 points
  • Motorcyclist who drives without a reflective vest: ¢90.800
  • Taxi or bus drivers who offend passengers (hee hee! this is a good one): ¢90.800
  • Taxi drivers who do not use the maria (taxi rate counter): ¢90.800
  • Damaging street lights or signs: ¢90.800
  • Blocking a roadway: ¢90.800
  • Damaging a roadway: ¢90.800
  • A licensed driver who forgets his or her license at home and gets caught without it: ¢45.400
  • Driving without your car's documents (registration, etc.): ¢45.400
  • Running through the toll booth without paying: ¢22.700
  • Making noise with loudspeakers (oh I thought this day would never come!): ¢22.700
Strangely, there was nothing in the La Nacion article about car seats, and I do know that car seats will be required of all children under 12. Which means that even if you take your friend and her kid home from playgroup one day, and you don't have a car seat for her kid, yes, you can get popped for that. Personally, I think it's a very, very good thing. There are far too many children here allowed to bounce all over the place without even a seat belt on. I don't know if parents just don't realize how vulnerable a young child's skull is, but if it goes through a windshield, chances are pretty grim. When I find out more about the car seat thing, I'll update you all.

UPDATE: You do need a child seat for all kids under 12, and the fine is ¢227.000 plus you lose your driver's license. So no more taking a friend and her kid home from playgroup until I get an additional car seat! Again from La Nacion.

UPDATE 2: Esposo says there are a whole bunch more laws that aren't in that La Nacion article. When all of the laws are published in La Gaceta is when they will be officially official.

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