Driving north from La Uruca to Herdia, at the winding curve before the Rio Virilla bridge, drivers at night cannot help but focus on the big screen. | Photo: Gabriela Tellez, La Nacion
Driving north from La Uruca to Herdia, at the winding curve before the Rio Virilla bridge, drivers at night cannot help but focus on the big screen. | Photo: Gabriela Tellez, La Nacion

COSTA RICA NEWS – This is a story of trying to fix something after the problem has occurred (the horse is out of the barn, so to speak), of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT) trying to stop something happening when it has already happened: the big and bright billboard advertising screens located on the country’s roads.

The Departamento de Inspección Vial y Demoliciones (highway inspection) at the MOPT says it has declared “war” on the large obtrusive signs. In the opinion of Inspección Vial, the signs violate legislation on advertising on public streets and can even be dangerous for drivers.  See related note Large, Bright Lumious Road Signs Will Soon Go Dark

Photo from IMC website
Photo from IMC website

As such, in June the MOPT division undertook a “hunt” for the big screens, taking action against the first two: one in Heredia and the other in Curridabat.

However, that action didn’t go over so well, truncated by a injunction issued by the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo, following an appeal by the adveritising firm, Interamericana Medios de Comunicación (IMC), owner of these and other electronic billboards.

Vinicio Barboza, head of Inspección Vial, admits that it hasn’t been until now that the MOPT has started to get tough on this type of advertising, not applying the Rules and Rights of Way Outdoor Advertising (Reglamento de los Derechos de Vía y Publicidad Exterior).

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Photo from IMC Website

Barboza says they have identified some 100 large signs of the kind througout the country and have started the process of getting each disconnected.

The chief says that since starting to work at Inspección Vial last year, he has been reviewing the law and though there is not direct mention in the legislation about luminous LED screens, subsection c of article 52 of the MOPT, points out illegal any advertisement that “fires rays of light or those that directly affect the visual ability of the driver.”

According to Barboza, that’s the key to shutting down the electronic billboards. Another point made by Barboza is that the owners of the billboards do not have permits to erect the structures.

With respect to mobile electronic billboards, the Policia de Tránsito (traffic police), have been ordered by the Minister of Transport, Carlos Segnini, to apply fines to vehicles carrying such signs parked on the side of the road. Transit records indicate that, to date, no fines have been issued, yet we can see these mobile signs in operation on a regular basis.

Photo from IMC Website
Photo from IMC Website

Defending themselves, Jonathan Picado, lawyer for IMC, says tha the MOPT has issued them permits for years and “now we are being told that we are illegal. They are making an illegal interpretation.” The lawyer also attacked the argument that it affects drivers, saying that the signs meet global standards not to exceed 0.3 foot candle.

“None of products exceed the limit, but curiously Consejo de Seguridad Vial (Cosevi) do. They (MOPT) cannot distinguish where the law does not distinguish,” Picado noted.

Source: La Nacion


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