Q COSTA RICA – Legislators on Monday approved in first debate reforms to the Ley de Transito (Traffic Law).
The following are the 19 changes contained in Bill 19.636:
1. Area will be defined for the exclusive use of loading and unloading for vehicles, including heavy trucks.
2. It will be prohibited to park trucks, buses and other vehicles with a gross weight of more than 2 tons in urban and suburban roads, unless they are in authorized stops or in defined loading zones.
3. Prohibited to park vehicles in defined loading and unloading areas.
4. The Traffic Police (Policia de Transito) may seize the license plates of vehicles obstructing public roads, including sidewalks, bike paths or parked in front of public service (bus and taxi) stops. The Traffic Police can even remove (tow) the vehicle in order to prevent further obstruction.
Refusing breathalyzer, excessive noise, gases, polarization
5. A fine of ¢306,850 is imposed on the driver who refuses to submit to a roadside breathalyzer test. The driver will also be taken to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
6. The driver may challenge the result of the roadside breathalyzer test and will be entitled to a second test. However, if the result of the second test is positive, the driver must pay for the cost of the test.
7. A fine of ¢306,850 is established for producing noise above the limits of decibels (dB) allowed by law:
- Automobile: 90 dB
- Lightweight vehicle and minibuses: 92 dB
- Busetas (mini buses) and buses: 94 dB
- Heavy-duty vehicle: 96 dB
- Motorcycles up to 250 cc: 94 dB
- Motorcycles over 250 cc: 96 dB
8. A fine of ¢306,850 and the seizure of license plates for vehicles whose gas emissions exceed the limits established in the vehicular inspection (Riteve).
9. Prohibited is the 100% obscurity polarization of vehicles, except for factory installed.
Impersonal fines and traffic cameras
10. The issuing of impersonal tickets is authorized, that is the driver does not have to be in the vehicle for the traffic official to issue the ticket, including infractions captured by traffic cameras.
Correct license for the class of vehicle
11. The removal of the paragraph of Article 86 authorizing a B-1 license (passenger vehicle) for scooters (bicimotos) and motorcycles of up to 125 cc, as well as tricycles and ATVs of up to 500 cc, on non-primary roads. That is the proper license for the type of vehicle will be required on all primary roads.
12. A fine of ¢104,600 (up from ¢51,316) will be issued to a driver without the proper license for the class of vehicle being driven.
13. The Traffic Police may seize the license plates from a public transport vehicle when the driver is driving without or with an expired or suspended license.
14. The registered owner of the vehicle will be fined ¢22,000 for allowing a driver to circulate without the respective license.
15. A fine of ¢104,600 is imposed on the driver of a light or heavy load vehicle when they fail to comply with the following provisions:
- Circulate with loose load.
- The load obstruct the driver’s visibility or hindered the driving of the vehicle.
- The load is transported in a way it could cause accidents (“inconvenientes” is the Spanish term) due to the load coming loose or hinders the transit of other vehicles.
- The load must not obscure the vehicle’s lights or the license plate .
- All equipment and accessories used to condition or protect the load, must meet the regulatory safety conditions.
- Any load protruding from the rear, front or side of the vehicle, should be marked with red flags and with reflectors at night. The load must not make contact with the road.
- Vehicles of more than four thousand kilograms (4 tons) must respect the weigh stations.
16. A fine ¢104,600 for overcrowding the vehicle, that is exceeding maximum capacity of the vehicle as per the Marchamo.
17. A fine of ¢104,600 is imposed on the driver who transports passengers in the trunk or in the open back of the vehicle (ie a pick up truck), with the exception for the transportation of workers for agricultural activities, maintenance of public services, emergency care and the transfer of persons on gravel or dirt cantonal roads.
Disrespect Of Traffic Officials
18. A fine of ¢51,316 will be imposed on the driver who disrespects the directions of a traffic official.
19. A fine of ¢ 51,316 for operating a taxi or special area passenger service in unauthorized areas.
For the bill to become law and go into effect, it requires second and final Congressional approval, the signature of the President and published in La Gaceta, the official government newsletter.
Some readers may be wondering why the Traffic Police is would prefer to seize license plates in lieu of the vehicle itself. This can be answered in two parts.
One, the Transito lots are full to the brim of seized vehicles, mainly due to the lack of regulations to quickly dispose of the vehicles, which in many cases are in police custody for years.
And two, the Traffic Police has a limited number of tow units, requiring contracting outside tow trucks and passing on the cost to the owner of the vehicle. Now, let’s say the fine or fines are higher that the value of the vehicle, what motivation would the owner have to reclaim the vehicle and paying the costs associated with the fines and tow.
Confiscating the license plates is the quick and inexpensive solution for authorities. Given that the process of reclaiming seized license plates is a ‘complicated’ one, the sanction seems to be an effective deterrent.
Source: La Nacion, with additional editing from the Q.