QCOSTARICA – Residents of La Sabana, Rohrmoser, Pavas and Cartago all have something in common: street racing. Most nights, public streets across the country are plagued by drivers competing for something or other.
And sometimes things go wrong.
The latest casualty from street racing occurred Sunday morning, 600 metres (six blocks) of the U.S. Embassy in Pavas, when an 81 year old man was truck by a vehicle driven by a 23 year old, involved in a street race. According to the police report, the vehicle travelling at high speed, left the road and ended up on the sidewalk where the victim was walking at the time.
The deputy minister of Transport and Road Safety, Sebastian Urbina, in a radio interview with “Nuestra Voz“, recognized that police action cannot control street racing (piques or picones in Spanish).
Urbina said the major problem in combating street racing is that by the time a Transito (traffic police official) appears on the scene, the cars (involved in the races) are not moving over the speed limit and thus cannot be sanctioned.
In Pavas, for example from La Circunvalacion and for several kilometres west, past the U.S. Embassy San José, it is a straightway. In La Sabana, immediately west of the Stadium, the four lanes and median make an excellent impromptu race track. The same on the Bulevar of Rohrmoser. In Cartago, the San Jose- Cartago highway (the Florencio del Castillo) is four lanes of pure racetrack and no cops.
According to the deputy minister, when Transitos set up spot checks in places like the Florencio de Castillo, or in San Franciso de Dos Rios, racers quickly disperse to other areas.
“A complicated issue” is what Urbina calls the need for people to take to street racing. “In many cases it (street racing) is used resolve conflicts among the group”.
However, the problem, from the point of view of residents, is another: few Transitos and/or the will of traffic authorities to curb the problem.
Piques or Picones typically occur at night. And it is at night that the traffic police is at its most vulnerable, maintaining a skeleton staff to respond to traffic accidents or busy with spotchecks.
A Tránsito official, speaking to the Q on the condition of anonymity, most Transito detachments have one or two officials on duty at night, mainly to respond to emergencies, nothing of patrols. Except for the airport detachment, where half a dozen of traffic officials daily patrol the small area of the terminal. At this detachment, even at midnight two to four officials are on duty, while the highway leading to and from the airport is bare of a police presence.
Silvia Valverde, a resident of Rohrmoser, told Nuesta Voz, that if and when she does call police to report racing in her neighbourhood, she it told that there are no units available, they are either at the scene of a traffic accident or just busy.
Urbina said that the reactivation of the traffic cameras could be one of the solutions to the street racing problem.
However, the use of the cameras has been repeatedly being struck down by the Constitutional Court.