Speeding motorists, dead or alive, face heavy fines

September 29, 2011

A list of 15,429 drivers caught speeding by newly installed traffic cameras from Sept. 8-20 was published Monday on the website of the government daily La Gaceta. The 120-page document, which appears in PDF format, includes a license plate number, cédula or identification number of the vehicle’s registered driver, and ticket number for each violation. The list is available at: http://www.gaceta.go.cr/pub/2011/09/26/ALCA67_26_09_2011.pdf. 

Due to a high volume of visitors to the site on Monday, the webpage was saturated and extremely slow to load, often resulting in error messages. The homepage for La Gaceta, www.gaceta.go.cr, was also slow to respond on Monday. The list of violations was also published in the daily La Nación on Wednesday.

During the first 11 days of camera observation, motorists clocked driving 20 kilometers per hour over the established speed limit were ticketed ₡308,000 ($616), while those going faster than 120 km per hour received a ₡411,000 ($822) fine. Motorists recorded driving above 150 km per hour could receive one to three years in prison. By Sept. 19, the amount of fines racked up exceeded $9 million (TT, Sept. 23). 

Last week, Adriana Vergara, a resident of the northwest Guanacaste province, filed the first of what many believe will be a flurry of lawsuits before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) requesting injunctions against the fines. 

Though Vergara is yet to receive a citation, she said that the receipt of a ticket while driving the car registered to her deceased ex-husband would be unconstitutional.

“How would this new law process a penal offense to the registered owner of a vehicle in abnormal circumstances, such as when the owner of the vehicle is dead,” Vergara asked in the plea, which was sent to The Tico Times. “How would [the Roadway Safety Council] establish the penal responsibility of a dead person?”

In an interview with The Tico Times last week, Silvia Bolaños, director of the Roadway Safety Council (COSEVI), said that in the event of a death, the owner of the vehicle is still responsible to pay the fine. If the deceased party was the owner, the person that inherits the vehicle is responsible for the payment of the fine. 

At the conclusion of the 120-page list on La Gaceta’s webpage, a note from Traffic Police Director César Enrique Quirós reminds drivers that they have 10 business days to contest fines. To do so, motorists must go to the office of the Unidad de Impugnaciones de Boletas de Citación, at a COSEVI regional office. COSEVI’s office in the Central Valley is located in La Uruca, northwest of downtown San José. According to Bolaños, drivers have until Oct. 13 to contest violations received in September. Late payments on fines are subject to a 3 percent monthly interest rate. 

To pay tickets, drivers can visit www.infraccion.co.cr, where they will be asked to enter a license plate number to access the site. If no fine has been attributed to the vehicle, the site will read “No tiene infracciones” in bold red print. If the vehicle has received a violation, the site directs visitors to a document that can be downloaded and printed. To pay the fine, the document must be completed and mailed or faxed with a copy of the driver’s cédula or passport to the address provided. Payments can be made by cash, check, debit and credit card. 

According to Transportation Minister Francisco Jiménez, revenue will be shared between several agencies and only 8.47 percent of the total revenue is distributed to COSEVI. The Child Welfare Office receives the largest cut, at 30 percent, and the Red Cross receives 15 percent. Municipal offices and Traffic Police get 10 percent of the funds, five percent goes to the Judicial Branch and courts, and the remainder will be used for camera operating costs. 

Jiménez said that revenue collected from the fines would be used to construct 32 pedestrian bridges, provide better roadway demarcation and signs, and reduce the number of highway deaths.     

“The social benefits of this program will bring much needed assistance to vital national programs,” Jiménez said. “Organizations desperately needing funds will receive a boost, and national roads will be safer places to drive.”  

There are currently 16 cameras monitoring major national roadways in the Central Valley. Bolaños said 450 cameras would be installed in upcoming years.

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