QCOSTARICA – Getting a driver’s license for the first time in Costa Rica is a true lesson in patience and waiting. And more waiting. Months to get an appointment for the driving test.
And the pace of opening appointments does not solve the existing and other options must be sought, is the opinion of the Defensoría de los Habitantes (Ombudsman’s Office), another institution that Costa Ricans have turned to due to the inability of Educación Vial (the Department of Driver Education) to schedule appointments for the driving test.
According to the Defensoría, the number of people complaining about the long deadlines to carry out the theoretical and practical tests is increasing.
“The Dirección General de Educación Vial is collapsed, without the capacity of personnel and sufficient material to face the challenges demanded by users of the service and offering temporary solutions such as increased opening hours,” the Defensoría concluded.
The Defensoría recommends that the MOPT apply contingencies such as extending the validity of temporary permits to learn to drive, which gives the person the right to drive as long as they are accompanied by another driver who has a valid license.
Currently, the learning permits are valid for three months, after which they must be renewed. But is is more complicated than that, given that ‘learning drivers’ have to file a medical certificate and special INS insurance policy, with a validity of six months.
For the Defensoría, the best thing would be for the validity of the permits to be extended for one year, without cost or additional procedures for those affected.
All these recommendations were not only for Educación Vial, but also for the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT) and the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad (Conavi).
“It is inadmissible”
The Defensoría de los Habitantes has issued criticisms of the Dirección General de Educación Vial for problems with driving tests, as well as for the inconvenience they generate for citizens.
The Defensoría has indicated that “although palliative measures have been applied, these are not constant and do not solve the problem of requesting appointments for theoretical or practical tests.” It argues that it is a public service that should be offered with quality and efficiency.
The ongoing problems
Gary Jiménez, Driver Education advisor, alleged that there are several causes for the delay, including having reduced the passing grade of the theoretical exam from 80 to 70, as well as a decrease in the number of evaluators.
The number of evaluators has decreased from 40 in 2017 to 32 this year. Of that number, 2 are about to retire, while the other 30 must attend the 13 evaluation sites throughout the country.
Faced with this problem, users have sought alternative options, in addition to the Defensoría, appeals have been made to the Constitutional Court or Sala IV as it is commonly referred to, where they have claimed the impact caused by delays in appointments on the rights to work and access to public services.
The complaints have been on the rise in recent years. So far in 2023, at least 68 people have won their case at the Sala IV, requiring Educación Vial to improve the quota reservation system and forced to grant most of them a new appointment within a month of the decision.
A real-life example
A person speaking to the Q anonymously who, after battling with Educación Vial’s record-keeping system, paying for the medical certificate and INS insurance, obtained their learner’s permit.
She fought with Educación Vial to fine her records of the theoretical test, which has to be taken only once, in this case more than 10 years ago, to be issued the learner’s permit, with expires in three months.
Knowing the situation at the Educación Vial, the person chose to make her driving text appointment at once, in this case, made in the first of May, the driving test is for March 2024.
Unless there is a change in the requirements, the person will have to renew the permit at least three times, each time waiting out an appointment at the BCR and cost at each renewal, and at least one new medical certificate and new INS insurance.