Change in new Costa Rica transit law requires drivers to travel with emergency kit

August 14, 2009

Forty days before a new law goes into effect that would require every driver to travel with a first aid kit, the transport ministry is launching an effort to modify the requirement.

Given the difficulty in enforcing the law and the potential for medicine within the kit to go bad, officials are pushing legislators to make changes before the law takes effect on September 23.

“What we want from the new Transit Law is to protect Costa Ricans,” Transport Minister Karla González told the daily La Nación. Fining people who don´t comply “is irrational,” she said, explaining that medicine left for long periods of time in a car could pose a risk for people´s health.

“We would be causing injury to people,” she said.

The Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) leapt into action after a study conducted by the Costa Rican Pharmaceutical School was brought to their attention by the daily newspaper La Nación. The study revealed the type of medicine used in a first aid kit should be kept at temperatures less than 86 degrees Fahrenheit, but internal car temperatures within Costa Rica can reach 122 degrees, causing deterioration of quality and effectiveness.

The law, which was part of a package of transportation reforms, would allow transit police to issue ¢80,000 ($137) tickets if drivers do not have a first aid kit in their possession.

“The intentions of health officials and legislators are good,” said Carlos Rivas, a lawyer with MOPT. “But medications within the kit risk spoiling if they are kept in certain climates or beyond their expiration dates.”

If the law does go into effect and includes the requirement to carry a first aid kit; drivers can purchase kits at the Red Cross, 100 meters west of Casa Presidencial for 9,800 colones ($17). They are also permitted to assemble their own, provided it has basic medical supplies, Rivas said.

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