Costa Rica's traffic police attends on average to 10 accidents per hour. Photo  ALONSO TENORIO, La Nacion
Costa Rica’s traffic police attends on average to 10 accidents per hour. The death toll so far this year (to Dec. 20) is 384. Photo ALONSO TENORIO, La Nacion

QCOSTARICA – With limited resources, this year the Policia de Transito (traffic police) has had its hands full, more so that previous years.

Besides battling traffic congestion and fining drivers for a multitude of infractions, the officials of this understaffed police force attended nearly 10 accidents per hour in the first eleven months of 2015.

According to the stats, up to November 30, transitos (traffic officials) responded to 78,812 traffic accidents.

The figure exceeds last year’s total of 73,840 accidents, with an average of 8.4 mishaps per hour. In 2013, the number of accidents was 56,519 (6.4 per hour).

This work is done by only 763 transitos, working three shifts, throughout the entire country.

Mario Calderon, director of the Policia de Transito, said attending to accidents is the most time consuming of a transito’s time.

According to the director, an accident without personal injuries or deaths takes about 30 minutes to process. In the event of injuries and fatalities, the process can take several hours.

Experts in transportation say the increase in the number of accidents is due largely to the growth of the vehicular fleet.

Between 1980 and 2014, the number of vehicles on the country’s roads (mostly the same roads) went from 85,120 to almost 1.4 million. Private passenger vehicles representing the bulk of the vehicles on the road, for a total of 863,000.

In contrast to the increase in the number of vehicles, very few new roads have been built.  According to the Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales (LANAMME) de la Universidad de Costa Rica – National Laboratory of Materials and Structural Models of the University of Costa Rica – since 1962 only 500 kilometres of new roads have been built.

Mauricio Leandro, researcher for the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), said the roads with the most accidents have poor lighting and bad weather, such as the Ruta 32 (San Jose – Limon). Reckless drivers also contribute to the high number of accidents.

In 2015, up to December 20, a total 384 people died on the roads.  In all of 2014 the number of fatalities was 355. (The numbers do not include persons died in hospital after removed from the scene of the accident).

The road with the greatest number of deaths is the Ruta 1 (the Interamericana norte, from San Jose to Peñas Blancas), with 37 deaths, followed by the Ruta 32 with 34 deaths.

An estimate by the Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transporte (MOPT), the Policia de Transito has a decifit of 1,100 transitos.

To meet the lack of manpower, the MOPT has signed agreements with the Fuerza Publica (national police) and police departments of municipalities like Cartago, Belen, Santa Ana, Mora and Barva to train their officials for traffic duty.

Source: La Nacion

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