Sunday 16 May 2021

Two people die every day in Costa Rica in traffic accidents

In 2019, 792 people lost their lives, revealed a study by the Judiciary. Fatal accidents occur more frequently on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and the "holiday" months

QCOSTARICA – Two people die, on average, every day in our country due to road accidents, collisions, or rollovers, according to a report from the Planning Department of the Poder Judicial (Judiciary) for 2019.

Fatal collision on December 2, 2019, in Curubandé de Liberia, Guanacaste. Three people died in the collision. The Cosevi only reports deaths at the scene, the Judicial report is encompassing. Photo courtesy of Bomberos

According to the report, 792 people lost their lives that year. The vast majority of those victims were young people between the ages of 20 and 34, representing 40% of the total, a percentage that has remained very similar since 2015.

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The number of deaths given by the Judiciary exceeds the data recently provided by the Road Safety Council (Cosevi) by 341 victims, which showed that, in 2019, there were 451 people killed due to accidents on the roads. An average of just over one death a day.

The difference is that the Cosevi only counts deaths at the scene, while the Judiciary takes into account deaths after, occurring in hospitals.

To prepare the report, the investigators relied on data collected by the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) removing bodies both in hospitals and at accident sites, and reports from the Judicial Morgue.

The document was finalized and delivered on February 18 to the members of the Superior Council, for communicating the data to the entities specialized in prevention. This is the most comprehensive report on road accident fatalities.

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The report corresponding to the 2020 figures will very possibly be finished for February 2022.

Slight decrease

Judicial analysts show that, since 2010, the number of people killed by traffic accidents had maintained an increasing trend until 2017, when the highest point, 885 deaths, in the country was recorded.

However, this trend was interrupted in 2018, when there was a decrease, there were 829 deaths that year. The decline continued into 2019.

For the investigators of the Judiciary the fact that in 2019 the deaths decreased compared to previous years, may be related to the fact that at that time the amount of the fines for traffic law violations increased.

In addition, in 2018, the Public Ministry, reckless drivers would be arrested, detained in the OIJ jails while being investigated and processed. It is estimated that this may have induced drivers to be more preventive when driving.

Although the 2020 data is not ready, a decline is expected and to be even more than previous years, this, due to the pandemic and driving restrictions – fewer cars on the road at the same time – and causing many Costa Ricans to transform their mobility habits.

Mortality rate

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This past Sunday (May 2)  a collision involving three vehicles in San Carlos resulted in the death of a 4-month child riding in the mother’s lap. Photo courtesy

Regarding the mortality rate in traffic accidents, in 2019, it was 15.7 per 100,000 inhabitants, a reduction of 0.9 points compared to the 16.6 in 2018.

This result is the lowest reported in the last five years. The highest rate had been reached during 2017 when it was set at 17.9.

For comparison, the 2020 homicide rate was 11.2 per 100,000 residents, with 570 murders.

The report of the Judiciary indicated that it is the coastal provinces of Puntarenas, Limón and Guanacaste that register the highest rates, with 31, 25.3, and 25, respectively.

In Puntarenas, 153 people died in traffic accidents, in Limón, 115 and in Guanacaste, 97.

The most tragic days

According to the report, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are the days in which the majority of traffic deaths occurring, with 450 people, which is equivalent to 56.8% of the total.

The months with the highest mortality were January, March, April, and December,  the “holiday months”. December/January coinciding with the end of year and start of new year holidays, while March/April with Semana Santa. Both periods are heavy travel periods of the year.

Another aspect mentioned is that collisions are still the main cause of death, 508 people (64,1%) losing their lives in Costa Rica, followed by being struck by a vehicle (20.7%), rollovers (9.2%), the rains (5.7%) and 0.3% for “others”.

The report refers to the fact that road accidents also affected mostly minors and the elderly.

Regarding their nationality, of the deceased, 667 were Costa Rican and 121 foreigners – 96 Nicaraguan; 11 Americans, and 6 Colombians – with the rest distributed among people from different countries.

Finally, the report detailed that in 84.1% of the cases (666), the victim was a man, and in 15.9%, a woman (126).


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We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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