Despite legislators´ best efforts to rewrite the law and a union´s refusal to implement it, the new transit law went into effect on Monday with fines some call disproportionately high.
During a five-hour period on Monday morning, police issued 90 tickets, for violations ranging from driving without a valid license ($536) to talking on a cell phone ($300).
“Our obligation is to apply the law,” said Juan Carlos González, spokesman for the Public Works and Transport Ministry, who said the union´s protest hasn´t affected the ticketing.
Marco Vargas, transportation minister, told the daily Diario Extra that police should put more emphasis on actions that endanger other people, and not be as vigilant in applying the tickets to minor offences.
“What I have said in our guidelines is to pay particular attention to what we call serious offenses, such as drunk or reckless driving,” he said. “But that transit authorities should apply the full force of the law.”
As police are busy handing out tickets, legislators are still working in an effort to make changes to the law before they leave office in May.
“We are looking for the necessary consensus,” said National Liberation Party lawmaker Alexander Mora. “The idea is to adjust the sanctions so that they reflect Costa Rican society.”
The original law was supposed to take effect in September of 2009, but due to inconsistencies in the legislation and fines that many lawmakers considered too high, the Legislative Assembly voted to postpone the implementation of the law an additional six months.
Even with the added time, they weren´t able to achieve agreement on changes, and the law went into effect March 1, looking much like the original one approved in November of 2008.