Seat belt law hits a snag, but traffic police still enforce it

The Sala IV constitutional court has declared that the fine for not using a seat belt is disproportional and unreasonable. The vote was six to four.

After the action, that was announced Friday, there are six more constitutional cases against the new traffic law. Lawmakers have spent more than a year studying the law that was passed by the previous legislature where members immediately had second thoughts.

Francisco Jiménez, minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes, immediately announced Friday that police will continue to enforce the seat belt law but instead of a fine, violators would lose points on their license. They could lose the right to drive.

Jiménez said his ministry was working with the legislature to produce a final traffic law. He emphasized the value of a
seat belt to protect motorists and passengers when there are accidents.

The constitutional case was brought by a man named Hilman Salazar Ruiz. Other court appeals involve fines for talking on a cell telephone while driving, fines for excessive vehicle noise, fines for parking badly and the fine for not having a vehicle inspection sticker.

All appear to be disproportional.

The traffic law established a 237,000 colon fine for failing to use a seat belt. That is about $474 at the current dollar rate of exchange. The law also provides for deducting 20 points from a motorist’s license. The license is suspended when the driver accumulates 50 points.

Despite the law, some drivers simply drape the seat belt over their shoulder. Principal offenders are taxi drivers who spend much of the day behind the wheel.

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