Action this week promised on traffic law rewrite

Lawmakers promise that a revised traffic law will come to the floor of the Asamblea Legislativa for action within a week, and that the measure will contain penalties that are proportional to the offense and consistent with common sense.

The measure now is in a special commission that was created to study the law that the current legislature inherited from the previous one.

Word from the committee is that there were 75 proposed changes and 74 were accepted. In addition, the revised document now has the support of committee members from every major party and that there are only minor areas of disagreement.

The lawmakers got a wake-up call last week when the Sala IV constitutional court threw out monetary fines for failing to wear a seat belt. The court said the fine, 237,000 colons (about $474), was disproportional to the offense. The traffic law that went into effect two years ago is full of such steep penalties, and more than 80,000 motorists are appealing their fines. This is a major problem for the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad that has a department to adjudicate the cases.

Viviana Martín Salazar, president of the special commission, said Monday that lawmakers have to move ahead diligently to fill a gap in the law brought about by the Sala IV decision. She said that the previous legislature put patches on three aspects of the law but that the current rewrite is consistent.

The commission will spend the week preparing its report to the full assembly and will try to seek a high priority for the measure.

The previous legislature passed the law in December 2008, and provisions against drunk driving and drag racing went into effect in time to catch New Year’s revelers early Jan. 1, 2009.

The bulk of the other regulations and steep fines were supposed to go into effect Sept. 23, 2009, but lawmakers passed a bill delaying the effect date until March 1, 2010.

That was after the Feb. 7, 2010, elections. Lawmakers toyed with the law until they left office May 1. They left what appeared to be critical revisions to the incoming legislature, which now must handle the chore.

Few people oppose the drunk driving provisions, which can mean prison and loss of the vehicle.
However, the other prohibitions carry fines similar to the seat belt violation. There also is a system of points that causes the loss of a driver’s license. Transport officials said Friday they would continue to deduct 20 points from the license of motorists who are caught in violation of the seat belt law. The law also requires car seats for children.

Accumulating 50 points causes the loss of a driving license, according to the law.

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