The new Ley de Tránsito goes into effect on Monday, as it was written and approved by legislators back in December 2008. Although the introduction of the full legislation was pushed back to September 23, 2009 and then March 1, 2010, to allow for discussion on amendments, legislators could come to full agreement what those amendments should be.
In fact, legislators on Monday will have wade through some 213 motions made during the past couple of weeks.
At the heart of those motions are changes to the high fines that will form part of the driving experience in Costa Rica on Monday and changes to drinking and driving provisions that now limits the blood alcohol content at 0.75, after which drivers are hauled to jail.
So, on March 1, drivers in Costa Rica will face a new system of fines and points for various infractions, fines severe enough to deter bad driving and a point system that can lead to temporary and permanent suspension for repeat offenders.
On Monday all drivers will begin the day with 50 points on their licenses. Each driving offence comes with a determined number of points deducted. When the number of points hits 0, the license is suspended for up to two years, and permanently for repeated suspensions.
Drivers, however, with good behaviour can redeem the lost points over time.
Driving over 150 km/h, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (impaired), for instance is 50 points, in effect automatic suspension, in addition to the ¢227.000 colones fine.
Driving without a license or a suspended license is 25 points and a ¢227.000 colones fine. So is driving a gypsy taxi or “taxi pirata” as they are known in Costa Rica.
Talking on a cellular phone while driving is 20 points and a fine of ¢170.250. So is not stopping at a stop sign or a red light or yielding to traffic.
Driving with tinted windows in the back window is 10 points and ¢90.800. So is driving with too many passengers (overcrowding the vehicle based on the passenger limit as set out in the vehicle’s registration).
Not have the vehicle’s registration in the vehicle or taxi and bus drivers insulting passengers does not impose a point loss but comes with a fine of ¢45.400 colones.
Not stopping to pay tolls or blaring speakers from a vehicle will cost the driver ¢22.700 colones.
Facing loss of points and heavy fines are also the failure to restrain children under the age of 12 in a child restraint and in the back seat. Failure to buckle-up and to insist on all passengers, front and back, to buckle-up comes with a stiff fine and points for the driver.
The ministro de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT), Marco Vargas, said on Thursday is asking Tránsitos (traffic cops) to use discretion and not fine drivers for minor offences, taking the opportunity to educate, rather than punish. The policy would be in effect for at least the first 60 days.
However, no word has come from the country’s top traffic cop, Germán Marín, whose 1.200 Tránsitos are the responsibility to enforce the law.