San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Fatal Auto Accidents

As of mid-week, three motorists had died on the new San José-Caldera highway, less than one month after its inauguration on Jan. 27.

While drivers are quick to blame faulty construction, poor design and bad planning for the fatal crashes, authorities insist that motorists’ disregard for the rules of the road is the primary cause of the accidents.

According to the Transit Police, most collisions along the new 77-kilometer toll way were the result of speeding. The road’s speed limit of 80 kph is reduced around sharp curves. Transit officials said drivers who don’t respect the reduced speed limits put themselves and others in danger.

But motorists may be right about some issues. Some have complained about the size of the shoulder on the highway, which is too narrow for a car to pull entirely off the road and safely attend a problem with his or her vehicle.

On Monday, rains provoked landslides, causing large rocks to slam onto the freshly asphalted pavement. Autopistas del Sol, the private firm in charge of the highway’s maintenance, closed the road for two hours while crews cleared the debris.

Along some stretches, 90-degree rock walls line the route and some of the steep cliffs have been reinforced with concrete to prevent landslides. However, by opening day last month, some walls had already begun to crumble, with winds blowing jagged rocks onto the expressway. The shoulder lanes are half the width of a sedan (TT, Jan. 29).

Drivers also have complained about poor lighting and a lack of reflectors along the new highway.

–Mike McDonald

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