San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Deaths on Costa Rica roads reach new record

The death of a motorcyclist last weekend brought the traffic death toll this year to 356, a figure that surpassed the 355 recorded in all 2014. The number also is the highest in the past 10 years, Traffic Police reported.

The average rate for road deaths in December is 30 people, therefore officials fear the new record will grow significantly.

Traffic Police Director Mario Calderón Cornejo said that over the past 10 years, the number of deaths from traffic accidents only declined once, in 2012, the year the country approved a new Traffic Law that raised fines to up to $900 for certain traffic violations.

Fines, however, were reduced following a ruling from the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. Justices at the time ruled in favor of complaints claiming the new fines were disproportionately high.

Officials from the Roadway Safety Council (COSEVI) believe the fines should be raised again. They also want better patrolling on roads as currently the main cause of traffic deaths is irresponsible driving.

COSEVI Executive Director German Valverde González said most road deaths this year are related to driver recklessness. As of Nov. 30, speeding was the main cause of accidents, resulting in the deaths of 98 drivers, followed by unsafe lane changes, which caused 64 deaths.

Driving while intoxicated was the third major cause of roadway deaths, killing 23 people.

Deaths from motorcycle accidents make up 40 percent of the total number, according to the report.

Valverde said it is imperative to change the Traffic Law and set tougher sanctions. He also urged the government to make all necessary changes to increase the number of Traffic Police officers.

Traffic Police officials agree, but say they are unable to hire more officers because of a lack of funding.

Pedestrian deaths

Traffic Police also are concerned about the high number of pedestrians killed so far this year: the death toll through November was 63.

Of those, 49 were killed because of their own recklessness, while the remaining 14 deaths were attributed to a motorist, according to Traffic Police data.

Police director Calderón said that eight out of ten pedestrian fatalities are related to bad decisions and reckless behavior such as avoiding the use of pedestrian bridges or pedestrian traffic lights. Police also recorded deaths of people who were hit while walking drunk down a street, crossing on a green traffic light or in front of moving vehicles.

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Ken Morris

As usual, two completely idiotic extrapolations from that data by people who are paid to understand traffic but don’t.

First, and most importantly, most pedestrians aren’t killed by their own recklessness, regardless of what these ignoramuses spout.

Yes, pedestrians do jaywalk–all the time–but they do so because they can’t cross at the intersections where the law says they should and are entitled to cross. They can’t because motorists at intersections insist upon both the right to go straight and the right to turn when they have the green light. Thus, pedestrians can’t cross whether or not they have the light, and find it much safer to cross in the middle of the blocks, where drivers turning into them is less likely. If pedestrian didn’t jaywalk, their casualty rates would be far higher than it is.

Just the day before yesterday I was at an interesection with the green light and thus the right to cross the street, when not only did a car turn into me and prevent my crossing, but then two motorcyclists turned from the far lane in front of a bus right into me, and sure enough then the bus turned into me after the motorcyclists. There’s often no way for a pedestrian to cross in a crosswalk with the right of way, and this is where there are crosswalks and traffic lights.

And as for pedestrians not using the pedestrian bridges, two points: First, ever try one? Every once in awhile they happen to be convenient, but more often than not they require hoofing it several blocks (and sometimes climbing steep embancments) simply to access. No wonder more pedestrians don’t use them. Second, the heart of traffic engineering is understanding what works vs. what doesn’t and to design infrastructure that works. This is what they do regarding motor vehicles, recognizing for example that speed bumps work better than speed limits and therefore installing the speed bumps, yet when it comes to pedestrians, the arrogant traffic engineers persist in insisting that their obviously flawed pedestrian bridges “should” work and then fault the pedestrians for not using them.

And this is not to mention cars parked on sidewalks, or in the few instances where they exist, bicycle lanes. You can rarely walk or bicycle a block without being forced illegally into the street by some damn parked car, and then I suppose blamed for being run over.

Speaking iof bicyclists, do you know that the law requires motorists to give bicyclists a meter’s berth when passing them? Take your tape measure with you, the meter doesn’t happen. it’s no wonder cyclists choose to ride illegally–and then be faulted for it when they are smashed.

Most generally, just look around and try to be a pedestrian. I can’t legally walk three blocks to the grocery store, since two intersections require breaking the law to cross.

Meanwhile, the other idiotic extrapolation from the data is that somehow increasing the fines for motorists’ infractions will reduce them. No, no, no, a thousand times no. Everybody (except I gather Tico experts on traffic) knows that the severity of the penality has far less impact on compliance than the likelihood of suffering it. Basically, if you want compliance with the traffic law, you’re much better off handing out a hundred $10 tickets than you are one $1000 ticket.

I could personally keep a squad of ticket-writing cops busy full time simply writing $10 tickets at the intersection nearest my house (though have yet to see a single cop write a single ticket there). The most amazing infraction I routinely see there is the “headlights optional” driving behavior. Gawd, motorcyclists race through the intersection at night with no lights at all. it’s amazing.

I even wonder how many pedestrians are mowed down by drivers opting to go without headlights at night, only for the cops not to notice and to fault the pedestrian for not seeing the hidden vehicle.

Speaking of hidden vehicles, the sidewalk parkers don’t seem to be aware that their parked vehicles block the view of the oncoming traffic that pedestrians need to see before they dare cross the street, even legally at intersections.

Sometimes pura vida slackness is endearing, but it loses that quality in situations where innocent people are killed and hurt by it. This is what’s happening every day on the streets, and it’s disgusting. It’s even more disgusting when the traffic officials persist in blaming the victims and imagine that higher fines is a solution when the motorist is at fault. They are wrong, and need to be held to account.

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Daniel Bizier

Yes! bring back the heavy fines of 2012. Those that follow the law will not be effected.
Hire more traffic police; their fines will more than pay their salaries and lives will be saved.
Every 5 years or so make it mandatory to renew your license to pass a written and driver test.
Many drivers are just ignorant and do not know how to drive. If they don’t pass they would need to take a driver’s education course.

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Poorly designed roads, terrible drivers, no law enforcement and a culture of heavy drinking — this is inevitable …

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