Sunday, October 28, 2012

Costa Rica: Over-Reliance on Electronic Traffic Management Problematic

More than 200 violations of Costa Rica's new traffic enforcement law were cited by traffic police on Friday (October 26), the first day of its implementation, according to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT).

Most of the citations concerned either vehicles lacking a mandatory inspection sticker or motorcyclists not wearing reflective clothing. 
The only fines that were not enforced were those involving motorists entering the center of the capital San José with the day's excluded license plate numbers. The new law requires that specific sites where the restriction applies must be described in an executive decree.
In September 2011, the Legislative Assembly voted on a first version of the bill, which included maximum fines of up to ₡468.780 (US$920), but the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, struck down the law, saying the penalties were disproportionately high. The main changes, therefore, are the reductions in the amount of fines.
Now the highest is ₡280,000 ($560) for those exceeding 120 kilometers per hour or driving under the influence of alcohol. The limit on blood-alcohol level was set at 0.60 grams per liter of blood.
Fines issued by roadside cameras will be reinstalled in February 2013. In a first stage, the electronic system will be back on four national routes and on the Circunvalación, a belt route around the center of San José.

COMMENT: Moving vehicle traffic citations are STILL extraordinarily high in Costa Rica, even for a developed nation. Thus, the country's massive expatriate community is urged to fully comply with traffic regulations or face the consequences of what are still characterized as particularly  excessive fines.

It is still uncertain as to whether motorists will be compelled to pay lofty traffic tickets on the spot, or whether the citations will be mailed to offenders for payment within a specified period of time.

Comparatively speaking, it appears imprudent for Costa Rica to rush into such a highly sophisticated, electronically-dependent traffic enforcement system, given the frequent interruption of local electrical utilities and the unpredictable seismic activity in the country, which may also jeopardize local power. 

It should also be noted that a recent network failure at the state-run Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) kept some 300,000 customers around the country from using Internet and cellphone services for three hours. ICE reported connection failures on Internet, IP and 3G telephone services, both for making calls and sending messages. There also were reports of problems with fixed and GSM lines.