Careless driving now costs only ¢20.000
The Sala IV gave another blow to the Ley de Tránsito and the efforts of traffic officials to reduce the carnage on Costa Rica’s roads.
The latest decision by the Sala Contitucional (Constitutional Court) reduces the ¢351.585 colones fine for speeding 20 km/h over the limit to the maxim of ¢20.000 of pre March 2010, when the new traffic law went into effect.
The Sala IV called the fine “irrational”.
In the last year the Sala IV has reduced the fines for many traffic infractions, including speeding.
However, speeding over 20 km/h was called “velocidad temeraria” (careless driving) and came with the higher fine instead of the ¢5.000 colones (rolled back) fined for speeding just one kilometre over the limit.
Confused? You are not alone.
In March 2010, the new Ley de Tránsito went into effect, raising fines from between ¢5.000 and ¢20.000 (the maximum fine set out in the traffic law that went into effect in 1993) to more than ¢300.000 when all costs were added in.
So, on March 2010, only drivers going 20 km/h over the speed limit could be fined. The fine was the higher limit. For drivers going over 120 km/h the fine was even higher and more points. For driving in excess of 150 km/h it became a criminal act and the driver subject to up to three years jail and suspension of their drivers license.
However, late last year the Sala IV rolled back the speeding fines based on they being “disproportionate. From that point on, drivers going as little as 1 km/h over the limit could be sanctioned the lower fine, but if going 20 km/h or over the limit, they were subject to the higher fines. The 120 km/h and 150 kn/h rule stayed the same.
Now, today, going 20 km/h over the limit costs only ¢26.000 colones when costs are added. That is less than a meal for two at a fine restaurant.
Confusing things even more is the points.
Although the fines have been lowered, the points system is in place. Thus, speeding only 1 km/h or 20 or 50 – as long as it is below 150 – points are accumulated and there is a loss of drivers license when 50 points are reached.
Driving with a suspended license still costs over ¢300.000 with costs and more points.
This is a fact forgotten by many drivers who, in their wisdom, consider the current (low) cost of speeding as just a cost of doing business, forgetting that the accumulation of points will see them without a drivers license for two years – up to a lifetime ban for repeated suspensions – and a mandatory five day drivers education course.
The director of the Policia de Transito, Diego Herrera – like his predecessor – is indignant of the Court’s decision and asks rhetorically, “what is worth more: a life or an administrative sanction?”
The Court decision also affects fines for obstructing a road, illegal parking and not having brake lights.
• Careless driving drops from ¢270.299 to ¢20.000
• Obstructing a road from ¢180.199 to ¢2.000 (no typo)
• Illegal parking from ¢144.159 to ¢5.000
• No brake lights ¢108.199 to ¢2.000