Speeding Fines for Auto Rental Tourists an Issue in Costa Rica

After the installation of traffic cameras at five locations in Costa Rica, high traffic fines that exceed the average monthly income for residents are currently a cause for debate in that country, according to Tico Times. One question is how the fines will affect tourists in rental cars.

Drivers caught traveling more than 20 kilometers per hour over the speed limit risk a $600 fine, higher than the $540 average monthly income for a Costa Rican. Punishment for speeding ranges from about $600 per infraction to three years in prison.

Silvia Bolaños, director of the Roadway Safety Council (COSEVI), said COSEVI officials were coordinating with rental car companies to make sure tourists paid fines before leaving the country.

Bolaños said that lists of violators would be distributed to rental car companies daily. If a license plate number on a rental car appears on the list, drivers will be charged fines when the vehicle is returned.

Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla has praised the new program for its efficiency, citing a reduction in violations since the installation of traffic cameras on Sept. 8. From that date to Sept. 30, the number of speeders the system caught decreased from more than 2,600 to 250. Traffic accidents also decreased in September.

Acknowledging complaints from people criticizing the cameras, fines, lack of signage and a difficult payment process, the president recommended the installation of more signs to alert drivers of the presence of cameras, the creation of a public information campaign and a better system to facilitate payment of fines. She also urged traffic officials to consider revising speed limits.
But other questions remain about the new traffic camera program, such as: Who would be fined if a vehicle owner is not at the wheel at the time of the infraction? Silvia Bolaños, director of the Roadway Safety Council (COSEVI), said vehicle owners are responsible for paying fines, because the cameras only record the license plate and do not provide a photo of the driver’s face.

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