San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican lawmakers approve traffic bill in first-round vote

Costa Rican lawmakers on Thursday night approved a new traffic law that includes new fines for violations. The fines are less than those approved in a similar bill last September and later struck down by a court as unconstitutional.

In a 37–2 vote, lawmakers approved the bill in a first round of debate, setting fines of nearly half of the amounts that were to take effect last year before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, struck them down, saying they were too high.

In the bill approved this week, the highest traffic fine is ₡280,000 ($550) for exceeding the speed limit by 120 kilometers per hour or more, drunk driving, driving with an expired license, passing in a no-passing zone or making an illegal U-turn. The previous fine for these infractions was ₡468,780 ($928).

If passed in a second round of debate and signed by President Laura Chinchilla, the bill would also establish different blood-alcohol limits by separating drivers into two groups: those with regular licenses and drivers with commercial licenses. The blood-alcohol-content limit for commercial drivers would be 0.2 grams per liter, with punishment of up to three years in jail for driving with a content over 0.5 g/l.

The limit for regular drivers would be 0.5 g/l, with jail time for more than 0.75 g/l.

Lawmakers will debate the bill in a second round on Tuesday, but they also plan on first sending it to the Sala IV to avoid constitutional errors.

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