COSTA RICA NEWS — Currently, riding your motorcycle may be hazardous to your health. Last year, the state-owned insurance company INS created a minor rebellion by hiking the mandatory insurance on the two wheelers radically, even though it considered the minimum charge, taking into account how much it pays out in claims..

Braving The Back Roads Of Guanacaste In Costa Rica
Not wearing a helmet is a common practice on the backroads of Costa Rica. Photo from “Braving The Back Roads Of Guanacaste In Costa Rica” – Gadling.com

Eventually, the company caved somewhat and passed on part of that hike to motorists, so if you’re driving a car, you’re paying for the high accident rate of motorcycles. The traffic safety agency Cosevi has promised a special campaign next year to try to brake the trend.

While INS pays out some claims for auto accidents on repair and replacement of the machines themselves, the bulk of the funds paid for motorcyclists come from medical costs for recovery of victims who often have to be pieced together and go through extensive and expensive rehabilitation.

If one talks to motorcyclists, it is obvious that some vehicle drivers operate under the principle of might makes right-of-way, knowing that if they collide with a motorcycle, the major damage to persons and machinery is inevitably going to fall on the cyclist.

But Cosevi recognises that much of the hazard comes from the motorcycle riders themselves and will target them, including stricter accreditation. Local drivers have grown accustomed to seeing motorcycles buzzing past at line at stop lights, making a “lane” out of the spaces between cars.

There is something of a fatalism that seems to effect motorcycle riders here. When a law was passed some years ago to make it mandatory to wear helmets, a group of cyclists took the law before the Constitutional Court to contest it. INS reasoned that cranial injuries involving the brain were rampant but this did not deter them.

Knowing that there could be an equal pushback on its campaign, Cosevi will conduct a series of workshops next October to prepare the way. The is something a bit paranoid about motorcyclists that causes them to ask, “Why are they picking on me?” whenever an agency proposes a plan to save lives.

The plan is aimed, says Cosevi director German Valverde, to reduce the accident rate involving two-wheelers by 20% in 2020. Taking into account the kamikaze temperament of local riders, it is realistic to set that goal five years ahead of the start of the campaign — although some cynics would call even that utopian.

The number of motorcycles and scooters circulating has risen six times its number 23 years ago — to 255,000 last year. But the death toll was 644 last year, 36% more than the 311 killed in murders the same year. Juan Manuel Madris, president of the Recreational Motorcyle Association says that cycles and car have to learn to live together on the same roads.

He admits that what is lacking is the training of motorcyclists — they still often do not wear protective helmets and often feel that traffic rules are for vehicle drivers and sissies. And many do not know those traffic laws expected of all motorists.

La Nacion, in a laudable report published this week, noted that of 3,226 traffic deaths in the last five years, 23% of them — 767 — were riding motorcycles.

Article by iNews.co.cr, reposted with permission