San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President Laura Chinchilla signs new traffic law

Costa Rica’s President Laura Chinchilla and Temporary Minister of Public Works and Transport Rodrigo Rivera on Thursday morning signed a new traffic bill into a law. Upon being published in the official newspaper “La Gaceta,” which government officials expect to happen in the next two weeks, the law will adjust traffic fines and penalties.  

The legislation went through two years of drafting and discussions before it was approved by lawmakers last September. The bill still lacks information on how the law will be implemented. This could take from six months to a year, officials estimated.

In September 2011, the Legislative Assembly voted on a first version of the bill, which included maximum fines of up to ₡468,780 ($920), some of the most expensive in the world. But the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, struck the law down, saying the penalties were disproportionately high.

The law signed this Thursday “includes more rational fines and penalties,” Chinchilla said. It places traffic violations in categories rated from “A” to “E.” The most expensive fines – for offenses such as drunk driving and driving with a suspended license – fall into category “A” and set a maximum fine of ₡189,000 ($379).

The bill also creates driver’s education materials for schools to use, and community service opportunities for people whose licenses are suspended for one or more violations.

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