TICO BULL by Rico – It’s time Costa Rica’s traffic police and/or the OIJ is allowed to come out of the dark ages when it comes to responding to the scene of a traffic crash involving a fatality.
As it stands now a judge has to be present at the scene of an accident to order the removal of the body. Without this presence, the traffic police and investigators of the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ), must wait. And wait.
It doesn’t matter if traffic congestion occurs, even if the entire road infrastructure collapses. They must wait.
Two cases in point are the events of March 15 on the Autopista General Cañas and February 23 on the Circunvalacion.
In the former, a driver lost control of his vehicle in the area of Cariari, crashing into the concrete abutment. The official time of the accident was 12:47 am.
I tuned into the morning 6 am news and there was, in front of me, live coverage of the accident. The body had been covered up with a white sheet, the traffic police, and OIJ investigators milling around, waiting…waiting…waiting. It wasn’t until minutes before 7 am when one lane of the Autopista was opened and the body removed.
By this time traffic had backed up. The lucky one who had gotten an update on the social media, Waze, Google Maps, avoided the Autopista. Many others not.
The latter, on the Circunvalacion, a young doctor, after losing control of his vehicle, shortly after 4 am, crashed onto a stationary tractor trailer. It was hours later that the road was reopened.
In both cases, the waiting aorund for the judge to be present at the scence casused considerbale traffic chaos to the already traffic nightmare of San Jose.
Months back, I was personally present at a similar scene, this time on the Costanera coming from Jaco. Moments before I arrived at the point as it goes up from the Tarcoles (crocodile) bridge, traffic had come to a standstill. You know something is terribly wrong when there is no traffic on the opposite lanes.
It was minutes after 4 pm. I got out the car, I was not driving that day, and walked the 500 meters to the scene. The bodies of two motorcyclists had just been covered up. It was at a point that traffic that cannot be diverted. All the Transitos (traffic police) could do is wait. Wait. Wait. The paramedics had left the scene, there was nothing more for them do do, the driver of the pickup truck involved in the accident was OK.
It was starting to get dark. The OIJ investigators had arrived. But there still was missing, the judge. It wasn’t until minutes before 8 pm that traffic was cleared to move.
These are not isolated incidents. Deaths on the roads of Costa Rica are daily.
And although I can respect the process that has been put in place sometime in the dark ages, a time when the police authorities like the Policia de Transito, Fuerza Publica and the OIJ, were nothing like the professional forces they are today, a time when they required a higher authority.
This is a topic that has been discussed over and over between the respective agencies and authorities, but nothing has changed.
Maybe now is the time that it does.
Transitos and/or the OIJ agents should be empowered to do the job that is now required to be done by a judge, that in the words of the OIJ director, Walter Espinoza,”is of little value”.
The speeding up of the process is in the “public interest”. It also alleviates anxiety, sorrow, and pain of the family of the victim(s) having to endure seeing their loved ones laid out on the road for hours on end.
At every scene of an accident, fatal or not, who arrives first? The first responsders like the paramedics and firefighters, followed by police (Transito and Fuerza Publica). If there is a fatality involved, the OIJ is called in. And the judge.
I can’t see the need for the latter.