San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Traffic

Pedestrian fatalities in Costa Rica currently outnumber drunk driving deaths

A total of 23 pedestrians died on Costa Rican roads during the first four months of this year. Of those, 18 were caused by negligence, Traffic Police officials reported.

Pedestrian deaths are the third most common cause of death on Costa Rican roads. Speeding tops the list (52), followed by irresponsible lane-changing (25).

That number also is higher than the number of deaths caused by driving under the influence of alcohol. From January to April, 9 deaths were attributed to drunk driving.

Traffic Police also are concerned about the high number of pedestrian fatalities in 2014 – 78. Nine of those were children. Traffic Police reported that 56 of the 78 pedestrian deaths were attributed to victims’ “recklessness.”

Pedestrian deaths account for 17 percent of 133 deaths from accidents in the first four months of 2014. Last year a total of 355 people died on the country’s roads, 18 percent of them pedestrians.

Reports from Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) officials state that people continuously risk their lives by refusing to use crosswalks and pedestrian bridges.

Last month the ministry launched a campaign in collaboration with state-owned mobile carrier Kölbi with informational messages and warnings to pedestrians. The campaign also awards free minutes to people using pedestrian bridges.

Traffic Police Deputy Director Sonia Monge Jara called on the public to be more cautious on the road.

“We ask people to respect traffic lights, and to use crosswalks and pedestrian bridges,” she said.

Monge also warned people to use extreme caution with the arrival of the rainy season.

“Pedestrians need to be as visible as possible during rains, specially in the evenings, either by wearing reflective clothing, using flashlights or even their mobile phones as lights,” she added.

Article 147 of the country’s Traffic Law stipulates fines of ₡21,963 ($40) for pedestrians walking on roads or jaywalking. But good luck finding a sidewalk or a cop to enforce that law.

The fine for failing to use a pedestrian bridge is ₡20,000 ($37).

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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Juan Mayer

I feel that the situation of pedestrians in Costa Rica is not the best.
1. They have to struggle with no or with real bad and small sidewalks (in the center of SJ they are so crowded that you have to walk on the street).
2. Both authorities and media are quick to blame pedestians for inadequate behaviour.
This article is yet another example, even though I have not missed the slight ironic remark at the end, and even though it “only” cites the authorities.

Where’s the advice to drivers of motor vehicles? Where does it say: “lower your speed when passing by stopped buses (from which people are descending)? Where does it say: “Pay attention during the rainy season, there are pedestrians that might not be easy to see, slow down if you have not enough visibility”?

However decides to take into action a motored vehicle imposes per se a higher risk to other users of the road. That’s called operational hazard.
So even if you behave correctly all the way, but have a crash with some weaker user of the road, it’s your fault in part. Nobody forced you to operate this vehicle.

At court they have this concept as well in Costa Rica, but it’s unknown to the public.
I know of a case where this was applied.

So what MOPT is saying is that it’s the victims fault. The vicitms have to protect themselves.
They have to make the effort so that driver’s of motored vehicles have an easier live and don’t have to pay so much attention.

Don’t get me wrong. Especially the visibility advice to pedestrians is not that silly. They should do it, but mainly drivers need to adapt their speed to the maximum visibility at night or when it rains.

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Ken Morris

Juan is right–this is about motorists and the clueless MOPT blaming the victim–but even Juan is too forgiving. No, it’s not the pedestrians’ responsibility to make themselves visible to motorists, it’s the motorists’ responsibility to watch out for them. As a defensive measure, it might make practical sense for pedestrians to be more visible, but telling them that is like telling people they ought to wear bulletproof vests in case someone shoots them. If everyone wore bulletproof vests, there would probably be fewer gun deaths, but is it really the responsibility of the victims to wear protective clothing?

Juan unfortunately misses a point that Matthew more brazenly misses. This is that actually crossing at intersections with the light (assuming there is one), which the law says pedestrians must do, is often one of the most dangerous places to cross. It is because motorists believe they are entitled to either turn or go straight when they have the right away. This effectively prevents pedestrians from legally crossing the street at the intersections even when they have the right of way, and makes it far safer to jaywalk in midblock.

I have watched pedestrians stranded at intersections unable to cross with the light through multiple changes because these motorists insist on turning as well as going straight, and not many who do turn bother to use their turn signals to alert mere pedestrians.

As for Matthew’s point that the ignorant pedestrians need to be educated, the offensiveness of the remark goes without saying. I defy him to provide any evidence whatsover that pedestrians really are ignorant.

As for pedestrians not using pedestrian bridges, Rule #1 in traffic planning (as well as probably in life) is that people invariably do the thing that looks easiest to them at the moment. Abundant evidence exists to show that speed limits for example have next to no effect on motorists speeding. Rather, they drive at the speed they deem suitable for the road conditions. The only way to get them to slow down (short of stationing traffic cops at the area constantly) is to change the road conditions in ways that force them to. Traffic engineering is about building the infrastructure that encourages people to act in the way you want them to act.

Well, the pedestrian bridges have been a giant failure–but they are a failure of the traffic engineers, not the pedestrians. Instead though of admitting their failure, CR’s traffic engineers want to wag their fingers at pedestrians. They wouldn’t though do this with speeding motorists. Instead they’d get busy building the roads in ways that slow the motorists. Only with pedestrians do they refuse to admit their engineering failure and blame the victims.

To the culture, which Bobpiazza brings up, I’m unfortunately persuaded that CR’s is a “might makes right” culture. Since the motorists have more power, they do whatever they want (always parking on the sidewalks too) and the poor pedestrians cower in fear.

75% of the population doesn’t drive, yet the traffic engineers only work for the 25% who have the might. And the damn legislators even get a gas allowance. I bet they are among the 25%, every damn one of them.

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Matthew Frederick

The issue Juan is that even when the city has provided side walks and bridges, as per the articles picture, which is in front of Sabana park where i used to work, people are so dam ignorant and lazy they would rather rush across a high way then walk up a bridge and down the other side.

This article is about pedestrians, not cars. Drivers are just as bad, but buses are at fault as well. People should not be getting off a bus, cutting in front and crossing the road. There are intersections for that, USE THE INTERSECTIONS and wait for the light to change in your favor instead of j-walking and then try to blame drivers.

This is the victoms fault as reported, you see it every where you drive, down town san jose they can’t do much about making side walks larger, but on 2nd ave they seem fine, side streets another story, but car’s are usually speeding through there because there is too much traffic.

So lets educate the ignorant pedestrians to save them from themselves.

FYI – i am a pedestrian, i do not drive.

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Matthew Frederick

The issue Juan is that even when the city has provided side walks and bridges, as per the articles picture, which is in front of Sabana park where i used to work, people are so dam ignorant and lazy they would rather rush across a high way then walk up a bridge and down the other side.

This article is about pedestrians, not cars. Drivers are just as bad, but buses are at fault as well. People should not be getting off a bus, cutting in front and crossing the road. There are intersections for that, USE THE INTERSECTIONS and wait for the light to change in your favor instead of j-walking and then try to blame drivers.

This is the victoms fault as reported, you see it every where you drive, down town san jose they can’t do much about making side walks larger, but on 2nd ave they seem fine, side streets another story, but car’s are usually speeding through there because there is too much traffic.

So lets educate the ignorant pedestrians to save them from themselves.

FYI – i am a pedestrian, i do not drive.

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AhLejos

Yeah…well I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to fine the drivers who rush through the intersections even when the light is against them…I mean, sometimes the cars actually stop but the motorcycles spin right through at a breakneck speed…Just a thought. That might make it easier for pedestrians. I was told (with a certain amount of humor) that the drivers in Costa Rica follow the M and D method of driving. Move or Die. Funny I suppose, but does make one take note…words from a tourist who loves your country, nonetheless, but will be on special guard during her next trip. Pura Vida, indeed!

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Matthew Frederick

I have no issue putting my leg out and forcing people to stop and when they give me a look i have no issues yelling t them as well. Cars and bikes always run lights as well and they should be equially fined and stopped, but where is a transit cop when you need it. As soon as that light is yellow and i check around to see if any cars are speeding, as soon as thre light goes red, i make a movement as if i am going to step out, with out actually trying to kill myself.

I did have one person once do an illegal left turn at an intersection, almost hit me as i crossed the road cause they tried to cut in before on coming cars came. Lets just say the had to explain to his insurance company why he had 2 massive dents in the hood of his car because i put them there when i punched down on his hood and started raging at the guy (i am 6’4 210lbs).. he just drove off once i was out of the way for him to leave…

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Bobpiazza

Possibly the lack of concern for pedestrians has evolved as did the lack of attention given to the trash pickup. As Costa Rica grows, little attention or planning is given to growth and its related problems. That enables Costa Rica to proudly proclaim they are a developing country (and have been for decades).
Living outside of the centro area of the cities as I do, the hazards are more recognizable. For those who are transplants, the concern for pedestrians appears to be downcast by those who are born here and know of nothing different.
For example, yesterday while driving in the Birri area of Santa Barbara de Heredia there was a lady walking with her child in a stroller. As there are no sidewalks and little room for two vehicles, I slowed down for safe passage. While slowing down, the car in back of me speeded along side, honked their horn and passed on their merry way. This caused me to stop instead of hitting the pedestrians.
This occurs more often than not. I have actually seen pedestrians jump out of the way of traffic on rural roads or motorcycles that chose the ride on the sidewalk rather than slow down to the pace of traffic.
I assume those who walk 3 or so abreast and refuse to move for traffic do not drive and do not understand the hazards posed.
On the main street it appears many bus stops are not located at safe pedestrian crossings.
Costa Rica will not address the problem because it is not a concern in their culture at this time. For correction to be considered, a problem must be recognized as existing. Recognizing a problem exists seems to contrary to the Macho attitude.

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Willyt

It has amazed me how fearless most pedestrians are on thehighway. People will walk two, three, and four abreast and will not yield when warned with a toot on the horn. They must believe they have the right of way…..The same is true with bicycles.
Is it possible to make a citizens arrest in Costa Rica?

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