San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Legislative Assembly Passes Seatbelt Law

THE Legislative Assembly voted Tuesday to make seatbelt use mandatory, Assembly representatives announced Wednesday.

If President Abel Pacheco signs the law, seatbelts will be required for both drivers and passengers. The driver of a car will be fined ¢8,000 ($19) if either the driver or any passengers are not wearing their seatbelts.

Lawmakers passed the law in first debate in December (TT, Dec. 24, 2003). In February, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) reversed a seven-year opinion and said such a law is constitutional (TT, Feb. 20).

The court also said drivers cannot be held responsible for the use of seatbelts by adult passengers, but its opinion is not binding for lawmakers.

Under current law, minors under 18 and adults over 65 are required to use seatbelts. Children under 12 also are prohibited from sitting in the front seat of cars.

Libertarian party member Federico Malavassi called the law “unconstitutional.” But supporters, such as National Liberation Party deputy Luis Gerardo Villanueva, said they are trying to protect lives.

According to Social Christian Unity Party deputy Olman Vargas, approximately 700 people die each year in traffic accidents in Costa Rica, and another 1,000 to 2,000 people are injured on streets and highways.

The law making seatbelt use obligatory will not go into effect until it is signed by Pacheco and published in the official government newspaper La Gaceta.


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